Family members of military personnel who die while serving on active duty, active duty for training (ADT), or initial duty training (IDT) may be eligible for several federal benefits, privileges or entitlements.
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. If the CAR cannot answer your questions, they will refer you to the appropriate military official or government agency, or get the answer for you.
Following show the benefits, privileges, and entitlements for active duty military family survivors.
Family members of military personnel who die as a direct or indirect result of wartime or peacetime service are eligible to receive several types of federal benefits. Benefits to a spouse and children are paid regardless of economic need, except in the case of a nonservice-connected death pension. Benefits for parents who might otherwise be eligible are not paid if the parents have income in excess of a certain amount each year. Your CAR, the nearest VA or Social Security office will explain the benefits to you, the amounts that can be paid, and help you complete the required claim forms.
Death Gratuity. The military "death gratuity" is a lump sum gratuitous payment made by the military to eligible beneficiaries of a member who dies on Active Duty (AD), Active Duty for Training (ADT), or Initial Duty Training (IDT), or full-time National Guard duty. Its purpose is to help the survivors in their readjustment and to aid them in meeting immediate expenses incurred. The death gratuity payment is $12,420, and is non-taxable. For those whose death is as a result of hostile actions and occurred in a designated combat operation or combat zone or while training for combat or performing hazardous duty, the payment is $100,000.
The death gratuity payment is made to survivors of the deceased in this order:
1. The member’s lawful surviving spouse. Payment delivered by the CAR assigned to the reporting or assistance base, within 24 hours of the member’s death, unless the surviving spouse desires other arrangements.
2. If there is no spouse, to the child or children of the member, regardless of age or marital status, in equal shares (state laws guide payment to minor children). Payment for minor children is made by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) within 30 days after they have received the required claim form and supporting documentation.
3. If none of the above, to the parents, or brothers and/or sisters, or any combination as designated by the deceased member. Payment delivered by the CAR assigned to the reporting or assistance base, within 24 hours of the member’s death, unless the NOK desires other arrangements.
The death gratuity is not paid to any other person when there are no survivors as listed above. A will is not a legal designation for death gratuity since such payment is not an allowance or a debt due the member and cannot be part of the member’s estate. The claim form required to apply for this benefit is DD Form 397, Claim Certification and Voucher for Death Gratuity Payment.
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 Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and a check for any amount due is issued to the designated beneficiary. When there is no written designation by the member, any money due is paid to the first eligible recipient in the following order:
- The member’s lawful surviving spouse.
- If there is no spouse, to the child or children of the member and descendants of deceased children, on their behalf.
- If none of the above, to the parents of the member in equal shares or to the surviving parent.
- If none of the above, to the duly appointed legal representative of the member’s estate.
- If none of the above, to the person(s) determined to be entitled under the laws of the state in which the member was domiciled.
The claim form required to apply for this benefit is Standard Form 1174, Claim for Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Member of the Uniformed Services. Your CAR will help you complete the required claim form.