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March 2, 2023

VA Form 21-686c: A Quick 8-Step Guide For Veterans

Last updated on March 6, 2023

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VA Form 21-686c, also known as the VA form to add dependents or the Declaration of Status of Dependents, is a form for you to provide information to the VA about your dependents. This VA dependents form is important when applying for benefits, as it determines the amount of benefits you’re eligible to receive. 

It’s also important for adding or removing dependents if your family situation changes in the time after you file for VA benefits. 

VA FORM 21 686C


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If you have a VA disability rating of 30 percent or more, you must also complete 21-686c if you are:

  • Claiming additional benefits for a spouse
  • Claiming additional benefits for a child
  • Reporting a divorce
  • Reporting that a stepchild is no longer a member of your household
  • Reporting the death of a spouse, child, or dependent parent
  • Reporting the marriage of a child
  • Reporting that a schoolchild over 18 has stopped attending school
  • Claiming additional benefits for more than four children

How to add dependents to VA benefits

The following steps are to help guide you through the process and help make filling out form 21-686c as easy as possible.

8-Steps To Completing VA Form 21-686c

Filling out VA Form 21-686c can be a complex and time-consuming process. By following these eight steps, you can ensure that you fill out the form correctly and provide all the necessary information. 

  1. Gather necessary information: Before filling out VA Form 21-686c, you should gather all the required information about your dependents. This includes their full name, date of birth, social security number, and relationship to you. For child dependents, have their birth certificates and social security cards. It’s also recommended to have divorce decrees and death certificates, when applicable.
  2. Download the form: VA Form 21-686c can be downloaded from the VA’s website or obtained from a VA office. It’s important to ensure you have the most recent version of the form.
  3. Read the instructions carefully: Before filling out the form, you should read the instructions carefully. The instructions will provide information about what information is required and how to fill out the form correctly.
  4. Fill out the form: Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information and have read the instructions, you can begin filling out the form. Be sure to fill out the form completely and accurately, providing all the required information.
  5. Sign and date the form: After filling out the form, be sure to sign and date the form. It’s important to note that the form must be signed and dated by you (the veteran) and not by a representative.
  6. Submit the form: You can submit it to the VA once completed. This can be done by mail, in person at a VA office, or online at When filing online via, you don’t need to download the actual form as it automatically generates it. It’s also wise to keep a copy of the form for your own records.  
  7. Wait for a decision: After the VA receives the form, they will review the information provided and make a decision about your benefits. This process can take several weeks to several months, and you will be notified of the decision in writing.
  8. Keep records of updates: It’s important to keep records of any updates or changes in your dependent status. This will make it easier for you to update your information with the VA and maintain your benefits.
VA 686C

How does the VA define a qualifying dependent?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) defines a “qualifying dependent” as a spouse, child, or parent of a veteran who is eligible for certain benefits. The specific definition of a qualifying dependent can vary depending on the benefit being applied for.

For example, for disability compensation, a dependent is defined as a veteran’s spouse, children under 18, or children between the ages of 18 and 23 who attend school. The VA may also recognize certain other individuals as dependents, such as stepchildren and adopted children who meet certain criteria.

Pension Benefits

For Pension benefits, the VA recognizes the following as dependents: a veteran’s spouse, children under 18, children between 18 and 23 who attend school, and certain other individuals such as stepchildren and adopted children if they meet certain criteria. Additionally, the VA may recognize certain parents of veterans as dependents if they meet certain income requirements.

Safekeeping Your Documents

Gathering as much information beforehand as possible can save you time filling out VA form 686c. We recommend finding a safe place to keep your supporting documentation, such as a file cabinet or security deposit box. This will also help if you need it to fill out other forms in the future. As mentioned earlier, keeping a copy of all documents you submit to the VA is always a good idea. 

For additional information about dependent benefits, including How to Get Chapter 35 VA Benefits for Dependents, check out our blog!



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