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M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, Chapter 5, Section F – Establishing a Child’s Age and Relationship


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic Name

1.  General Requirements to Be Considered a Child


This topic contains information on the general requirements that must be met in order for a person to be considered a child, including

Change Date

May 17, 2016

III.iii.5.F.1.a.  Definition:  Child

The term child is defined in 38 CFR 3.57.  It includes the following:
  • the biological offspring of a Veteran, whether legitimate or illegitimate
  • a child a Veteran legally adopted
  • a stepchild who
    • is a member of the Veteran’s household and acquired the status of stepchild before age 18, or
    • became a stepchild of the Veteran between the ages of 18 and 23, is attending school, and is a member of the Veteran’s household or was a member at the time of the Veteran’s death.
References:  For more information on

III.iii.5.F.1.b.  Age Requirement for a Child

In order to be considered a child for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) purposes, the individual must
  • be under age 18
  • have become permanently incapable of self-support before attaining age 18, or
  • be between the ages of 18 and 23, pursuing a course of instruction at an approved educational institution, and
    • a legitimate child
    • a legally adopted child, or
    • a stepchild who is a member of the Veteran’s household or was a member at the time of the Veteran’s death.
Note:  A stepchild must meet the definition of a child, as set forth in 38 CFR 3.57, before VA may consider the stepchild a child who is incapable of self-support.
References:  For more information on

III.iii.5.F.1.c.  Marital Status Requirement for a Child

For the purpose of determining entitlement to additional compensation or pension, an individual must be unmarried in order to be considered a child.
Example:  If a Veteran’s 16-year-old child is married, the Veteran is not entitled to additional benefits for the child.
Note:  Under 38 CFR 3.55, the marriage of a child is not a bar to benefits if the marriage was void or declared annulled by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Reference:  For more information on the marital status requirement for a child, see38 CFR 3.57(a)(1).

2.  Eligibility Requirements for a Child


This topic contains information on eligibility requirements for a child, including

Change Date

May 24, 2017

III.iii.5.F.2.a.  Circumstances Under Which VA May Pay Additional Benefits for a Child

VA may pay additional benefits for a child if the
  • Veteran is entitled to pension
  • Veteran has a single service-connected (SC) disability or multiple SC disabilities that is/are rated (individually or combined) at least 30-percent disabling, or
  • child is in the custody of the surviving spouse of a deceased Veteran.
Note:  In some instances, VA pays survivors benefits directly to the child of a deceased Veteran.

III.iii.5.F.2.b.  Additional Benefits for a Child Not Living With the Claimant

If a child is not living with a claimant, do not add the child to the claimant’s award without obtaining the information/evidence described in the table below.
Important:  A child who is not in the custody of a surviving spouse may not be considered the surviving spouse’s dependent, even if the surviving spouse is providing financial support.
If the child’s address is …
Then the claimant must …
provide the name and address (physical or mailing) of the person with whom the child lives.
  • Document all successful attempts to contact the beneficiary, on VA Form 27-0820, Report of General Information.
  • Document all unsuccessfulattempts to contact the beneficiary in the Veterans Benefits Management System under CLAIM NOTES.
  • If the required information cannot be obtained by telephone, request it through a development letter.
  • certify that the child’s whereabouts are unknown, and
  • furnish current evidence that child support payments are being made through a court or state agency.

III.iii.5.F.2.c.  Effect of a Child’s Entry Into Active Duty

An individual’s entry into active duty in the armed forces has no effect on the individual’s status as a child for VA purposes if all other requirements are met.
Note:  In VAOPGCPREC 61-1990, the Office of General Counsel held that an established stepchild’s entry into active duty in the armed forces does not deprive him/her of continued status as a member of the Veteran’s household.

3.  Establishing Age and Relationship


This topic contains information on establishing a child’s age and his/her relationship to the Veteran, including

Change Date

May 24, 2017

III.iii.5.F.3.a.  Information a Claimant Must Provide to VA

Before VA may pay benefits to or for a child, a claimant must provide VA with the child’s
  • name
  • Social Security number (SSN), if one has been assigned
  • date of birth (month, day and year)
  • birthplace (city and State, county and State, or (if the birth took place in a foreign country) city and country), and
  • relationship to the Veteran.
Additional information, as described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.F.2.b, is required if the child does not reside with the claimant.
  • VA does not require a claimant to provide the State in which a birth took place if the city of birth, such as Chicago, is well-known.
  • When a claimant states he/she has applied for an SSN for a child, send a development letter to the claimant that asks him/her to provide the child’s SSN to VA within 30 days from the date of the letter.

III.iii.5.F.3.b.When Dependency Documents are Required

In most cases, VA accepts the oral or written statement of a claimant as proof of a child’s age and relationship to a Veteran, without requiring the claimant to provide a birth certificate, as long as the statement includes the information described inM21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.F.3.a.
Documentary evidence of a child’s age and relationship to the Veteran is required if
  • the Veteran adopted the child, or
  • at least one of the conditions described in 38 CFR 3.204(a)(2) exist:
    • the claimant does not reside within a State
    • the claimant’s statement on its face raises a question of its validity, or
    • there is a reasonable indication of fraud or misrepresentation.
  • Claims processors may concede the status of a surviving child if the child was a dependent on the Veteran’s compensation or pension award at the time of the Veteran’s death.
  • Before delaying a decision on a claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or Survivors Pension by undertaking development to establish a child’s relationship to a Veteran, make sure the evidence/information required to establish the relationship is not already of record.
  • State, as defined in 38 CFR 3.1(i), includes the
    • District of Columbia
    • Puerto Rico, and
    • other territories and possessions of the U.S.
  • Assume the claimant resides within a State when a claimant identifies a U.S. city as his/her home of record even if the mailing address is an Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office address.
Reference:  For more information on requesting evidence from a claimant, seeM21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.B.

III.iii.5.F.3.c.  References for Evidence Requirements

Use the references in the table below if documentary evidence of age and/or relationship is required under M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.F.3.b.
For more information on documentary evidence to establish …
See …
the age of a child
a child’s relationship to a female Veteran
a child’s relationship to a male Veteran
an adopted child’s relationship to a Veteran
a stepchild’s relationship to a Veteran

III.iii.5.F.3.d.  Administrative Decisions Made by Other Agencies

Administrative decisions concerning a child’s age or relationship made by another government agency, such as the Social Security Administration, must be considered but are not binding on VA when determining entitlement to VA benefits.

4.  Documentary Evidence of a Child’s Age


This topic contains information about the documentary evidence that may be required to establish a child’s age, including

Change Date

March 21, 2016

III.iii.5.F.4.a.  Primary Documentary Evidence of Age

A copy or abstract of the public record of birth is considered primary documentary evidence of a child’s age.
  • A birth certificate created more than four years after the date of birth is acceptable as primary evidence only if it is consistent with other evidence of record.
  • A birth certificate issued by a hospital is acceptable only as secondaryevidence under M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.F.4.b and c.

III.iii.5.F.4.b.  Secondary Documentary Evidence of Age

If a copy of a birth certificate is not available, a claimant may submit secondary documentary evidence of a child’s age.  At a minimum, this evidence must show the child’s
  • name
  • date of birth
  • place of birth, and
  • mother’s name.

III.iii.5.F.4.c.  Examples of Acceptable Secondary Evidence

The table below shows examples of
  • secondary evidence, in order of preference, and
  • the conditions under which VA will accept such evidence as proof of a child’s age.
Type of Secondary Evidence
Conditions for Acceptance
A copy of a church record of baptism.
If the baptism was performed more than four years after the birth, the baptismal certificate is acceptable only if it is
  • consistent with other evidence of record, and
  • corroborated by at least one reference to age or relationship made at a time when such reference was not essential to establishing entitlement to the benefit claimed.
An official report from the service department regarding a birth that occurred while the Veteran was in service.
Valid without conditions.
An affidavit or certified statement of the physician or midwife in attendance at the birth.
Valid without conditions.
A copy of the family Bible or other family record certified by a notary public or other officer with authority to administer oaths.
The notary or other officer must state
  • the year in which the Bible or other record was printed
  • whether or not the record bears any erasures or other marks of alteration, and
  • if, from the appearance of the writing, he/she believes the entries to be authentic.
Affidavits or certified statements of two or more disinterested persons.
Other evidence that is adequate to establish the facts at issue, such as
  • census records
  • original baptismal records
  • hospital records
  • insurance policies
  • school records
  • employment records, or
  • immigration/naturalization records.
The authorization activity determines if the evidence is adequate to establish the facts at issue.
Important:  When requesting an original baptismal record from a claimant,
  • inform the claimant that VA is unable to return the record, and
  • encourage the claimant to submit a certified copy instead of the original.

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III.iii.5.F.4.d.  Information Affidavits or Certified Statements Must Contain

Affidavits or certified statements of two or more disinterested persons regarding the age of a child must contain the following information:
  • name and address of the affiant
  • affiant’s date of birth
  • description of the affiant’s relationship to the child (if any)
  • name of the child whose date of birth is at issue
  • date and place of the child’s birth
  • names of both of the child’s parents, and
  • source of the affiant’s knowledge.


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