M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart III, Chapter 5, Section G



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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes, Continued


d. Requesting Evidence to Establish a Stepchild as the Child of a Veteran

Request the following to establish a stepchild as the child of a Veteran for VA purposes:


  • date and place of birth of the stepchild

  • Social Security number for the stepchild

  • date and place of the Veteran’s marriage to the stepchild’s biological or adoptive parent, and

  • statement as to whether or not the child became a member of the Veteran’s household

  • before reaching age 18, or

  • between the age of 18 and 23 while enrolled in and attending school.

If the Veteran is still living, and the stepchild no longer resides with the Veteran, also ask the Veteran to




  • explain why the stepchild resides elsewhere, and

  • state whether he/she provides at least one-half of the child’s total support.


Exception: If the circumstances described in 38 CFR 3.204(a)(2) apply, request a copy of the stepchild’s birth certificate, showing the name of both parents, in addition to the other information described in this block.
Note: Make the request for information/evidence by telephone or by sending a locally generated letter. Document on VA Form 27-0820 any information and/or statements given to or obtained by telephone.
References: For more information about

  • the evidence/information VA requires to establish a valid marriage, see

  • M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.B.5 and 6, and

  • M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.E.20 (death cases only)

  • using MAP-D, see the MAP-D User's Guide, and

  • documenting telephone contact, see M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.B.2.e.

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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes, Continued

e. Effect of a Veteran’s Separation From His/Her Spouse on Entitlement to Death Benefits

If a Veteran separated from his/her spouse prior to the Veteran’s death, and the spouse was not at fault for the separation, the spouse may still be entitled to death benefits as the Veteran’s surviving spouse. However, if the surviving spouse is the parent of a child with no other relationship to the Veteran except, potentially, as a stepchild, VA will not recognize the child as a child of the Veteran unless at the time of death the child was a member of the Veteran’s household, as defined in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.G.42.b.
Important: If VA determines the child’s parent is entitled to death pension as the Veteran’s surviving spouse but does not recognize the child as the Veteran’s stepchild, do not consider

  • the child as a dependent when determining the surviving spouse’s maximum annual pension rate, or

  • the child’s income when calculating the surviving spouse’s income for VA purposes.



f. Termination of a Veteran’s Marriage to His/Her Stepchild’s Parent Before VA Grants Benefits

If a Veteran terminates his/her marriage with the parent of his/her stepchild before VA grants entitlement to compensation or pension, VA may still recognize the stepchild as a child of the Veteran upon completion of the process described in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.G.42.c.
Important: The child must continue to be a member of the Veteran’s household, as defined in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.G.42.b.



g. Effect of Separation or Termination of a Veteran’s Marriage on a Stepchild’s Status

A stepchild that VA already recognizes as the child of a Veteran does not automatically lose this status when the Veteran and the stepchild’s biological or adoptive parent separate or terminate their marriage. VA will continue to recognize the stepchild as the Veteran’s child as long as the stepchild remains a member of the Veteran’s household, as defined in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.G.42.b.
Follow the instructions in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.G.42.h upon receipt of notice that a Veteran and the biological or adoptive parent of his/her stepchild have separated or terminated their marriage.

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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes, Continued

h. Action to Take When a Stepchild’s Biological or Adoptive Parent Dies or Separates From or Terminates His/Her Marriage With the Veteran

Follow the steps in the table below upon receipt of notice that the biological or adoptive parent of a Veteran’s stepchild has


  • died

  • separated from the Veteran, or

  • terminated his/her marriage with the Veteran.




Step

Action

1

Establish EP 130.

2

Follow the instructions in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.F.36 for removing the spouse from the Veteran’s award.
Exception: Do not remove the spouse from the Veteran’s award if

  • the spouse and Veteran are only separated, and

  • the benefit to which the Veteran is entitled is disability compensation.

3

Determine whether the Veteran provided the following:


  • date of death, divorce, or separation from the stepchild’s biological or adoptive parent

  • a statement as to whether or not the stepchild is still a member of the Veteran’s household, and

  • (if the Veteran reported the stepchild is not a member of his/her household) the information/statement described in Step 12 of the procedure described in this table.


Important: Because the focus of this topic is stepchildren, additional instructions for handling the removal of a stepchild’s biological or adoptive parent from the Veteran’s award, when the Veteran fails to provide the date of death, divorce, or separation, were intentionally omitted.

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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes, Continued



h. Action to Take When a Stepchild’s Biological or Adoptive Parent Dies or Separates From or Terminates His/Her Marriage With the Veteran (continued)




Step

Action

4

Did the Veteran provide all of the information and the statement(s) described in Step 3?


  • If yes,

  • If no, attempt to obtain the information/statement(s) from the Veteran by telephone.

5

Were attempts to obtain the information/statement(s) described in Step 3 successful?


  • If yes,

  • skip the remaining steps in this table, and

  • follow the instructions in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.G.42.i.

  • If no, proceed to the next step.


Note: Document on VA Form 27-0820

  • all attempts to contact the Veteran by telephone, whether successful or not, and

  • any information and/or statements given to or obtained from the Veteran by telephone.


Reference: For more information about documenting telephone contact with beneficiaries, see M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.B.2.e.

6

Clear the EP 130 if it was not taken under the action described in Step 2.

7

Establish EP 600.

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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes, Continued



h. Action to Take When a Stepchild’s Biological or Adoptive Parent Dies or Separates From or Terminates His/Her Marriage With the Veteran (continued)




Step

Action

8

Prepare a notice of proposed adverse action by following the instructions that begin in the next step.
Reference: For more information about notices of proposed adverse action, see M21-1MR, Part I, 2. B.

9

Did the Veteran provide the date of death, divorce, or separation?


  • If yes, proceed to the next step.

  • If no,

  • ask the Veteran to provide the missing information, and

  • proceed to the next step.

10

Did the Veteran provide a statement as to whether or not the stepchild is still a member of the Veteran’s household?


  • If yes, proceed to the next step.

  • If no,

  • ask the Veteran to provide the statement

  • inform the Veteran that if the stepchild is no longer a member of his/her household, the Veteran must also provide the information/statement described in Step 12, and

  • proceed to Step 13.

11

Is the stepchild still a member of the Veteran’s household?


  • If yes, proceed to Step 14.

  • If no, proceed to the next step.

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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes, Continued



h. Action to Take When a Stepchild’s Biological or Adoptive Parent Dies or Separates From or Terminates His/Her Marriage With the Veteran (continued)




Step

Action

12

Did the Veteran provide


  • the date the stepchild stopped being a member of the Veteran’s household, and

  • a statement as to whether or not the Veteran continues to support the stepchild and, if so,

  • the total cost of supporting the stepchild, and

  • the stepchild’s current mailing address and the name of the stepchild’s custodian, and

  • the amount of support the Veteran provides to/for the stepchild?




  • If yes, proceed to Step 14.

  • If no,

  • ask the Veteran to provide the missing information/statement, and

  • proceed to the next step.

13

Inform the Veteran that if the stepchild is no longer a member of the Veteran’s household, VA must discontinue the payment of additional benefits for the stepchild effective the day after the child stopped being a member of the Veteran’s household.

14

Caution the Veteran that if he/she does not provide all of the information requested in the notice of proposed adverse action within 60 days, VA must discontinue the payment of additional benefits for the stepchild effective as early as the day after the date the Veteran last verified that the stepchild was a member of his/her household.

15

Send the notice of proposed adverse action to the Veteran.

16

Did the Veteran respond to the notice of proposed adverse action within 65 days?


  • If yes, follow the instructions in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.G.42.i.

  • If no, follow the instructions in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.G.42.j.



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