Survivor Benefit Information of Military. Shirley Pratt MOPH NSO Annual Training March 2014, Orland FL

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1 Survivor Benefit Information of Military KIA Personnel Shirley Pratt MOPH NSO Annual Training March, Orland FL

2 Deaths on Active Duty - Survivor Benefits The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a variety of programs to assist the survivors of military personnel who die on active duty. Most of these provisions apply equally to those serving on active duty inside or outside a combat theater. Survivors receive certain payments or benefits regardless of whether the inservice death is due to combat, accident or disease, including: Burial benefits for the deceased servicemember: Which include a gravesite in any VA national cemetery with available space, perpetual care of the grave at no cost to the family, a government headstone or marker, Presidential Memorial Certificate, and a U.S. burial flag. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: Current monthly rate of $1,215 for a surviving spouse, with additional benefits for dependent children. 2

3 Casualty Assistance Program and Casualty Assistance Representative VA has a Casualty Assistance Program (CAP) to give personal attention to surviving family members after in-service deaths, and to help them with benefit information and applications. A casualty assistance coordinator is designated at each of VA's 57 Veterans Benefits Administration regional offices. These VA coordinators work closely with military casualty officers to ensure timely assistance to beneficiaries. When a family is notified of the death of an active duty military member, they are assigned to a Casualty Assistance Representative (CAR), who's sole job is to help the family through the process. Reservists and National Guard Eligibility When a member of the Reserves or National Guard dies while federally activated or when serving on inactive duty for training, the death is considered serviceconnected for VA death benefits. Activation of a National Guard unit by a governor alone in support of security operations does not qualify unit members for these VA benefits, except life insurance. 3

4 Monthly Payments for Spouse and Children When a servicemember dies while on active duty, the death is considered service-connected unless it was due to willful misconduct. In most cases, survivors' claims are processed within 48 hours of receiving all necessary paperwork. In some cases VA can pay more than the current rate, such as an additional benefit for each dependent child who is unmarried and under age 18, or up to age 23 if studying at a VA-approved school. Also, for a surviving spouse who has one or more dependent children below age 18, an additional amount is added to the monthly DIC from the date DIC entitlement begins. This additional amount is removed at the end of two years following the date DIC entitlement began or earlier if all the dependent children attain age 18. Payments are increased if the surviving spouse is housebound or needs a home aide. The basic rate for survivors is adjusted annually and payments continue generally until the death of the spouse or remarriage before age 57. Remarriage 4

5 after age 57 does not affect benefits. Life Insurance Most servicemembers and reservists take VA's life insurance coverage, Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, although a few decline coverage. Most choose coverage at the highest levels and their designated beneficiary receives a payment of $400,000. VA pays claims related to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom within 48 hours of receiving the necessary paperwork. VA also offers beneficiaries free, personalized financial planning through a financial services company. Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI) There is no death benefit under the TSGLI program, which is designed to provide financial help through extended periods of medical care and healing for servicemembers who have suffered certain traumatic injuries. However, if an eligible service member dies before a payment is issued, the member's beneficiary under the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance program will be paid. 5

6 Burial in a VA National Cemetery Members of the armed forces and veterans, their spouses and dependent children may be buried in any of VA's national cemeteries with available space. There currently are 125 national cemeteries across the nation and 86 have available grave space. More information is available at As of December 2008, there have been nearly 800 servicemembers who died in Iraq or Afghanistan and were interred in VA national cemeteries. Burial in a Non-VA Cemetery Deaths of active-duty members are not covered by VA's financial burial allowance benefits, since the military services assist survivors with funeral expenses and the cost of burial in private cemeteries. If a family wishes to arrange burial in a non- VA cemetery, VA will provide a headstone or marker for the grave, Presidential Memorial Certificate and a U.S. burial flag. 6

7 Burial in a State Veterans Cemetery Although not a benefit provided by VA, burial in a state veterans cemetery is an option available in many states for those who die on active duty. Some states have residency requirements and may impose additional limitations. Military Funeral Honors Upon request, the Department of Defense will provide military funeral honors. This arrangement typically is made by the funeral director. At least two uniformed servicemembers fold and present the flag and play "Taps" by a recording or a bugler. Military Burial Flag In the case of in-service deaths, the Defense Department provides a U.S. flag to drape the casket or to be presented at a memorial service. After the service, the flag is given to the next of kin. 7

8 Health Care General health care and limited dental benefits for the survivors of servicemembers killed in action in Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom are provided by the military through its TRICARE program. VA offers bereavement counseling to parents, spouses and children of Armed Forces personnel who died in the service of their country. Also eligible are family members of reservists and National Guardsmen who die while on federal active duty. Bereavement counseling helps people deal with emotional and psychological stress after the death of a loved one. VA's bereavement counseling is provided at community-based Vet Centers located near the families. Educational Assistance When a servicemember dies on active duty, VA's Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program generally provides up to 45 months of education benefits to the un-remarried surviving spouse, which must be used within 20 years of the date of death, or for children aged 18 to 26. 8

9 This benefit may be used to pursue secondary school programs; associate, bachelor or graduate degrees; technical or vocational training; apprenticeships; and other types of training, including work-study programs. If the deceased servicemember had contributed to the Montgomery GI Bill education program, the designated life insurance beneficiary is entitled to a refund of the money that was collected through payroll deduction but was not awarded in education benefits during the servicemember's lifetime. If there is no designated beneficiary, the refund is payable to the surviving spouse. If the servicemember is not married, it is payable to the surviving child/children in equal shares. If the servicemember is not married, it is payable to the surviving child/children in equal shares. If there is no spouse nor children, it is payable to the surviving parent or parents in equal shares. The survivor may apply for the benefit by simply sending a letter requesting the refund St. Louis Regional Processing Office, 400 S. 18th Street. St. Louis, MO

10 Home Loans Surviving spouses of military members who died on active duty or died from a service-related disability may be eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan from a private lender. The loan may be used to purchase, construct or improve a home, to refinance an existing mortgage or for certain other purposes. As with the program for veterans, VA guarantees part of the total loan, permitting the purchaser in many cases to obtain a no-downpayment mortgage with a competitive interest rate. For more information on the VA home loan program. Presidential Memorial Certificate Program The servicemember's next of kin receives a Presidential Memorial Certificate. Additional certificates are available for other loved ones upon request to VA. The gold embossed parchment-style paper is inscribed with the servicemember's name and bears the president's signature. It expresses the nation's gratitude for the deceased person's military service. 10

11 Unpaid Pay and Allowances Upon death of an active duty member, any pay and allowances due, but not paid to the member, are paid to the designated beneficiary named on the member s DD Form 93, Record of Emergency Data. Unpaid pay and allowances may include unpaid basic pay, payment for up to 60 days of accrued leave, amounts due for travel, per diem expenses, transportation of eligible family members, shipment of household goods, and unpaid installments of variable reenlistment bonuses. The decedent s pay record is completely audited by the DFAS-DE Center and a check for any amount due is issued to the designated beneficiary. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) Eligible family members occupying government housing on the date the member dies may continue to occupy such housing without charge for a period of 180 days provided member s death was in the line-of-duty. If they vacate the government housing before the 180 days are up, the BAH is paid for the remaining unused days. 11

12 If the family members are not occupying government housing, they may receive BAH or an overseas housing allowance for 180 days after the member s death. Your CAR will explain this entitlement to you and help you complete the required claim form. Montgomery GI Bill Death Benefit The VA will pay a special Montgomery GI Bill death benefit to a designated survivor in the event of the service-connected death of an individual while on active duty. The deceased must either have been entitled to educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill program or a participant in the program who would have been so entitled but for the high school diploma or length of service requirement. The amount paid will be equal to the deceased member s actual military pay reduction less any educational benefits paid. Social Security Payments Social Security monthly benefits are paid to a spouse or a divorced spouse, age 60 or over; a spouse or divorced spouse regardless of age with children of the decedent under age 16 or disabled in their care and meeting social security requirements. 12

13 A divorced spouse must have been married to the service member at least 10 years. Monthly payments are also paid to children until age 18 or 19 if a fulltime student at a primary or secondary school, or age 18 or older and disabled before age 18. Spouses waiting until age 65 to apply for Social Security, receive maximum benefits. However, they can receive reduced Social Security payments between ages 60 and 65. Commissary Privileges Subject to the installation commander s determination of availability, the unmarried surviving spouse is eligible for commissary privileges. He or she may, on approval of the local installation commander, let an agent make purchases under certain circumstances. Purchases may be used by all members of the family living in the house. 13

14 Base Exchange Privileges Subject to the installation commander s determination of availability, the base exchange offers various services and facilities, depending on the base's population and what's available from the local civilian sector, such as theaters, barber shops, service stations, clothing stores, dry cleaning, optical shops, package stores, and other sales stores. The unmarried surviving spouse is eligible for base exchange services or, on approval of the installation commander, an agent may be allowed to make purchases under certain circumstances. Emergency Financial Assistance The Air Force Aid Society (AFAS), Army Relief Fund, or Navy Relief Fund offers qualifying family members financial assistance in the form of interestfree loans or grants during personal and family emergencies. Aid may be given for such purposes as food, rent, utilities, essential car repair, and certain medical and dental care. The assistance is temporary and based on immediate needs. 14

15 Legal Assistance Eligible family members may need or wish to obtain legal advice and assistance in connection with settling the estate of the deceased member, making a new will for the surviving spouse, taxation questions, and other related legal matters. Your CAR and mortuary affairs representative, in the course of helping you, may put you in contact with a legal assistance officer who can counsel you in these matters. The legal assistance officer can help in preparing the initial income tax return but can only give preliminary advice on probate and settlement of the estate, court appearances, preparation of inheritance tax returns, or in regard to civilian employment and business matters. Civil Service Job Preference A surviving spouse may be eligible to receive a ten point veterans service preference for federal service employment if the deceased member served in wartime or in a peacetime campaign or expedition for which the member received a campaign badge or service medal. 15

16 Survivor Benefits Overview Burial Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Casualty Assistance Program and Casualty Assistance Representative Reservists and National Guard Eligibility Monthly Payments for Spouse and Children Life Insurance Burial in a VA National Cemetery Burial in a Non-VA Cemetery Burial in a State Veterans Cemetery Military Funeral Honors Military Burial Flag Health Care Educational Assistance Home Loans Presidential Memorial Certificate Program 16

17 Cont d: Survivor Benefits Overview Unpaid Pay and Allowances Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) Montgomery GI Bill Death Benefit Social Security Payments Commissary Privileges Base Exchange Privileges Emergency Financial Assistance Legal Assistance Civil Service Job Preference 17

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