The topic might be a little uncomfortable to talk about, but an important one to discuss because the risk of dying unexpectedly is a risk we all face, whether serving in the military or not.
The Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs, along with other agencies, provide comprehensive assistance and support to the survivors of fallen Service members and veterans.
A Casualty Assistance Officer is assigned to help survivors understand and receive benefits and entitlements, and assist with the coordination of burial arrangements. Dependents are also provided with long-term casualty assistance, which includes financial and grief counseling.
The death gratuity is a lump-sum tax-exempt payment of $100,000 made by the military to eligible beneficiaries designated by a Service member who dies while on active duty or while serving in certain reserve statuses.
Surviving family should be provided with an initial survivor benefits report by the Casualty Assistance Officer, who will coordinate providing a military self-service logon that will provide access to an interactive online survivor benefits report.
The military will care for, transport, and bury eligible Service members, as well as provide travel entitlements for eligible survivors.
Surviving spouses or children of Service members who die in the line of duty while on active duty may be entitled to SBP payments. SBP is provided at no cost, as Service members do not pay into this benefit when on active duty. Retirees pay for SBP if elected before retirement.
This compensation is paid to eligible survivors of active duty Service members and survivors of those veterans whose deaths are determined by the VA to be service-connected. It is a flat monthly payment, independent of the pay grade of the deceased Service member. This payment is adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases and is non-taxable. The VA also adds a transitional benefit to the surviving spouse’s monthly DIC if there are children under age 18.
The surviving parent(s) of a Service member who died in the line of duty or of a veteran whose death resulted from a service-connected injury or illness may be eligible to receive Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. Parents’ DIC is tax-free income.
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance is a low-cost group life insurance program for Service members on active duty, members of the Reserves, cadets, and midshipmen of the four service academies, and members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). The maximum amount of SGLI coverage is $500,000.
Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance offers coverage for the spouse and dependent children of Service members covered under full-time SGLI. Coverage is automatic, except in the case of a Service member married to another Service member on or after Jan. 2, 2013, which requires the couple to complete appropriate forms to opt into the program. FSGLI provides up to a maximum of $100,000 of insurance coverage for a spouse, not to exceed the amount of SGLI coverage the insured member has in force. FSGLI also provides $10,000 for each dependent child.
Traumatic injury protection under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance provides financial assistance to Service members who have incurred certain physical losses due to traumatic injuries. Benefits range from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on the nature of the loss. All Service members who are insured in the SGLI program are automatically covered by TSGLI.
Financial counseling services are offered to beneficiaries of SGLI, FSGLI and TSGLI.
Surviving spouses who have not remarried may be eligible for a VA home loan guaranty.
The VA Office of Readjustment Counseling offers bereavement counseling to families of Service members who die on active duty.
Social Security Administration (SSA)
Social Security may provide a one-time lump sum death payment of $255 and monthly income to eligible survivors. Benefits eligibility is complex and is based on relationship and age. In general, there are three beneficiary categories who may be eligible to receive benefits:
- Your surviving spouse (age 60 or older) or any age and caring for your children under the age of 16 or disabled
- Your divorced spouse under certain conditions
- Unmarried children under the age of 18 (19, if a full-time student or 22, if disabled)
For more information about Social Security benefits and how they are determined visit SSA.
Ongoing Military Benefits
Surviving dependents may be eligible to receive access to the following ongoing benefits:
- DoD Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools
- TRICARE Health Care Benefit
- TRICARE Dental Program Survivor Benefit
- Housing and allowances
- Commissary and Exchange privileges
- Legal assistance
- ID card
- Posthumous citizenship
- Tax forgiveness
- Contributions of Military Death Gratuities to Roth IRAs and/or Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts