|For Family Members of Retired Servicemembers|
This page is designed to provide general information on most federal benefits and privileges you may be entitled to as survivors of a deceased military retiree. After you have had an opportunity to read this information, feel free to discuss any questions with your Casualty Assistance Representative (CAR). If they cannot answer your questions, they will refer you to the appropriate military official or government agency, or get the answer for you. If you need assistance in other matters not covered here, contact your CAR.
General Information. Family members of deceased retired personnel 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, while benefits for parents who might otherwise be eligible will not be 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, help you complete the required claim forms and forward them to the appropriate agency for processing.
Death Gratuity. A lump sum gratuitous payment made by the military to eligible beneficiaries when death occurs within 120 days after retiring. The Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS) issues this payment only if the VA determines death was caused by an illness or injury incurred while the retiree was on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty for training. The death gratuity payment is $6,000, of which $3,000 is taxable income. The death gratuity payment is made to survivors of the deceased in this order:
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 estate.
The claim forms required to apply for this benefit are DD Form 397, Claim Certification and Voucher for Death Gratuity Payment, VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by Surviving Spouse or Child, or VA Form 21-535, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent(s).
The claim forms along with supporting documentation (i.e., marriage certificate, birth certificate, civilian court custodianship certificate or guardianship order) should be mailed to your VARO for claim processing. Your CAR or the nearest VA office can explain this benefit and help you complete the required claim forms.
Unpaid Pay and Allowances. The retirement pay of a military member stops on the first day of the month in which the retiree dies. Unpaid pay and allowances is a lump sum the military pays the beneficiary the retiree names. It includes all pay due the retiree but unpaid at the time of death. Normally, this amounts to the retirement pay from the first day of the month of death through the date of death. Retirement pay deposited in the retiree's account after the retiree's death will automatically be recouped by DFAS-CL and reissued to the beneficiary for the correct amount. When the beneficiary designated by the retiree is deceased, or when the member elects "order of precedence," any money due is paid to the first eligible recipient in the following order:
The member's lawful surviving spouse.
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 claim form and forward it to the appropriate agency for processing.
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI). Retirees are covered for 120 days following retirement with no additional premium during the 120-day period. Retirees rated totally disabled on the date of retirement retain SGLI coverage up to 1 year or until the disability ceased to be total in degree, but not for more than 1 year. Determination and payment of proceeds are made by the Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance under the jurisdiction of the Department of VA. Payment of proceeds to a beneficiary are exempt from taxation. The insured member may have designated as principal or contingent beneficiary any person, firm, corporation or legal entity, including their estate, individually or as a trustee. If the member designated a trust, they indicated the name and date of the trust in the beneficiary block. If the member designated a trust through a Will, they annotated "Last Will and Testament" in the beneficiary block. If the member chose not to designate a specific beneficiary but preferred the proceeds be paid in the order of precedence, the member selected the "By Law" designation. When the "By Law" designation is used, the proceeds are automatically paid in the following order of precedence:
The claim form required to apply for this benefit is VA Form SGLV 8283, Claim for Death Benefits. Your CAR or the nearest VA office can explain this benefit to you and help you complete the required claim form, or you can write to
or call them toll free at 1-800-419-1473 (973-548-5699 if calling from overseas. Not a toll-free call).
Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI). This program allows retirees, upon retirement, to convert their SGLI coverage during the first 120 days following retirement, or 1 year following retirement for totally disabled retirees. VGLI is a 5-year renewable term policy, administered by the Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance under the jurisdiction of the VA. VGLI is issued up to a maximum of $250,000 in $10,000 increments, but not for more than the amount of SGLI the retiree had in force at the time of retirement.
If the retiree
was covered, the claim form required to apply for this benefit is VA Form
SGLV 8283, Claim for Death Benefits.
National Service Life Insurance (NSLI). Except for disability policies, no retiree has enrolled in this program since 23 April 1951. If the retiree was covered, the claim form required to apply for this benefit is VA Form 29-4125, Claim for One Sum Payment. Your CAR or the nearest VA office can explain this benefit to you, help you complete the required claim form and mail it to the Department of VARO and Insurance Center, Box 8079, Philadelphia, PA 19101.
Service Disabled Veterans Insurance (SDVI) (RH). This insurance is limited to veterans who left the Service after 24 April 1951. SDVI is life insurance for veterans with service-related disabilities but are otherwise in good health. The basic program, which is called "RH insurance," insures eligible veterans up to $10,000. The cost is based on the veteran's age, type of plan selected (term or one of several permanent plans), and the amount of coverage. Veterans rated totally disabled by the VA are eligible to apply for a waiver of premiums. For those veterans eligible for this waiver, a supplemental policy, called "Supplemental RH Insurance," with additional coverage of up to $20,000 is available, but the premiums cannot be waived.
If the retiree was covered, the claim form required to apply for this benefit is VA Form 29-4125, Claim for One Sum Payment.
Your CAR or the nearest VA office can explain this benefit to you, help you complete the required claim form and mail it to
Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan (RSFPP). This program allowed personnel who retired before 21 September 1972 to receive reduced retired pay in order to provide an annuity for certain beneficiaries after the death of the retiree. Participation in this program was voluntary.
Remarriage Before Age 60. Your RSFPP annuity ceases the first of the month in which you remarry. Notify DFAS-DE/FRB to prevent an overpayment of the annuity. If your marriage is terminated by death or divorce, the annuity cannot be reinstated. DFAS-DE will reinstate your RSFPP annuity only if you furnish documents verifying the annulment of a "void" marriage.
Remarriage After Age 60. Your RSFPP annuity will continue without interruption if you remarry after age 60. You should send DFAS-DE/FRB, P.O. Box 20609, Denver, CO 80220-0609, a copy of the marriage certification with instructions for name and address changes.
If the retiree elected to participate, the claim forms required to apply for this benefit are DD Form 1884, Application for Annuity Under the Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan (RSFPP) and/or Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), TD Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments, and SF 1199A, Direct Deposit Sign-Up Form, or FMS Form 2231, FAST START DIRECT DEPOSIT.
Your CAR can explain this benefit to you, help you complete the required claim forms and forward them to DFAS-DE for processing.
Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). A monthly annuity paid by the military. This program allowed personnel who retired on or after 21 September 1972, or before if they enrolled in the program during an open season, to receive reduced retired pay in order to provide a monthly annuity to their beneficiaries after the death of the retiree. The retiree designated the beneficiaries. Participation in this program was voluntary. SBP provides an eligible surviving spouse or former spouse financial security similar to the financial security a retiree had in retired pay--a cost-of-living-adjusted monthly income for life.
Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP). A monthly annuity paid by the military to the surviving spouse or, in some cases, eligible children, of a Reserve Component member who dies and has completed the satisfactory years of service that qualified the member for retired pay at age 60. The program allows Reserve Component personnel eligible for retired pay at age 60 to participate upon completion of the satisfactory years of service. The member eligible for retired pay at age 60 designates the beneficiaries. The beneficiary choices are the same as for SBP. Participation in the program is voluntary. The three options available to the member at time of election are:
A Reserve Component member eligible for retired pay under Title 10, United States Code, Section 12731, may also have survivor benefit coverage under his/her civil service retirement income. There is no conflict of interest which would prohibit simultaneous coverage.
Supplemental Survivor Benefit Plan (SSBP). Retirees who provided SBP coverage for a spouse or former spouse at the maximum level may have also provided an SSBP annuity to supplement the 35 percent SBP annuity that is payable when the spouse or former spouse is age 62 or older. An SSBP annuity is an amount equal to 5, 10, 15, or 20 percent of gross retired pay, according to the percentage of the SSBP that the member elected. DFAS-DE adds the SSBP annuity to an SBP annuity only when the 35 percent rate applies because the spouse or former spouse beneficiary is age 62 or older:
SBP and RCSBP Factors:
If the retiree elected to participate in SBP or RCSBP, they selected one of the election choices listed below:
Level of Coverage. The SBP annuity a surviving spouse, former spouse, or children receives depends on the amount of retired pay (base amount) selected by the retiree as the basis for coverage. The base amount selected could be the retiree's full monthly retired pay or just a portion, down to as little as $300. The base amount for SSBP or insurable interest coverage is the retiree's gross retired pay. The value of the annuity increases by cost of living adjustments, keeping up with the effects of inflation. Payments begin the day after the retiree's death and stop on the last day of the month before the month that a survivor's eligibility ends.
for Spouse and Former Spouse Annuity: DFAS-DE computes spouse and former
spouse annuities under a two-tier system. The annuity is 55 percent of
the base amount if the annuitant is under age 62 and later reduced to
35 percent on the 1st day of the month after the spouse or former spouse
turns age 62 The annuity for a former spouse whose divorce was finalized
before 30 November 1989 is not reduced at age 62, if the member was retired
or retirement eligible on or before 1 October 1985. If the member retired
or was retirement eligible on or after 2 October 1985, DFAS-DE computes
the annuity for the surviving spouse or former spouse beneficiary, if
divorced after 30 November 1989, under both the two-tier system and the
Social Security offset system. The beneficiary receives an annuity from
whichever system pays the greater benefit:
The two-tier system affects all retirees initially becoming participants in the SBP on or after 2 October 1985, and applies only to spouse and former spouse annuity payments.
Tax Implications. Survivor annuities and any cost refunds are taxable income. You will receive a tax statement from DFAS-DE at the end of the year. The statement will show the full amount of the annuity payments you received and the total amount of tax withheld during the year.
Unless you elect otherwise, the amount of federal income tax withheld (FITW) will be as if you were a married individual claiming three exemptions. If you want your FITW changed at a later date, you must complete a new TD-Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments, showing the changes, and mail it to DFAS-DE/FRB, 6760 East Irvington Place, Denver, CO 80279-6000.
DFAS-DE withholds a 30 percent Federal income tax on annuities paid to nonresident aliens unless the beneficiary resides in a country that has a tax treaty with the United States specifying a different withholding rate. Address questions to the Internal Revenue Service, Assistant Commissioner (International), ATTN: IN:C:TPS, 950 L'Enfant Plaza South, SW, Washington, DC 20024-2123, or contact the nearest American Embassy.
Annuities may be subject to Federal estate taxes. Beneficiaries should address tax questions to a legal assistance officer or the nearest Internal Revenue Service office.
A certificate of continued eligibility form will be sent to you each year prior to your birthday. Complete and return the form promptly so DFAS-DE can continue your annuity without interruption. Read the instructions on the form and make sure you have completed it correctly. Sign and date the form and send it to DFAS-DE/FRB, 6760 East Irvington Place, Denver, CO 80279-6000.
DIC Offset. DFAS-DE reduces a spouse's annuity by the amount of DIC the VA awards and pays the spouse based on the service-connected death of the retiree who provided the SBP. If the DIC exceeds the SBP amount, the spouse will receive all SBP premiums paid by the retiree. If the SBP annuity exceeds the DIC payment, the spouse will receive only the amount of SBP premiums paid for the portion of the SBP that is replaced by DIC. DFAS-DE does not reduce the spouse's SBP annuity if the spouse's DIC derives from the service of another member:
over age 55 who forfeits DIC by remarrying may have the SBP reinstated
by repaying the costs that DFAS-DE refunded when the DIC was awarded.
The reinstated SBP annuity is effective on the date the DIC expires. The
survivor may repay the premiums in a lump sum or installments. DFAS-DE
deducts installment payments from the SBP annuity.
The SBP annuity is not reduced by the amount of a child's DIC entitlement.
Civil Service Employees. A member who retired from Civil Service and waived their military retired pay to combine civilian and military service credits could not participate in both SBP and the Civil Service survivor annuity program. The member had to decline the Civil Service survivor coverage and continue in the SBP, or participate in the Civil Service survivor program at any level and have SBP coverage suspended. If the waiver of military retired pay was terminated for any reason, SBP coverage was resumed when the member began to receive retired pay again.
An SBP participant who did not waive military retired pay on retirement from Civil Service had to continue SBP participation. The member could also elect coverage under the Civil Service annuity plan and a survivor could receive annuities from both plans. If the retiree participated in the SBP, the claim forms required to apply for this benefit are DD Form 1884, Application for Annuity Under the Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan (RSFPP) and/or Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), TD Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments, and SF 1199A, Direct Deposit Sign-Up Form, or FMS Form 2231, FAST START DIRECT DEPOSIT. DFAS-DE may require additional documents in order to establish an annuity (i.e., Representative Payee documentation; school certification; physician's statement for disabled child over age 18).
Your CAR can explain this benefit to you, help you complete the required claim forms and forward them to DFAS-DE/FRB for processing.
Minimum Income Widow's Benefit. The unremarried widow of a retiree who died before 21 March 1974 may receive a minimum income widow's benefit. The widow must be receiving a VA widow's nonservice-connected death pension and have a total annual income from all sources except the VA pension that is less than an annual income level established by public law. For additional information and application instructions, write to DFAS-DE/FRB, 6760 E. Irvington Place, Denver, CO 80279-6000. Unremarried widows whose income exceeds this level may qualify for "forgotten widows" benefits, but must apply before 30 September 2001.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). DIC is payable by the VA to surviving spouses, unmarried children under age 18, disabled children, children between the age of 18 and 23 if attending a VA-approved school, and low-income parents of retirees who die from:
DIC payments may also be authorized for survivors of retirees who were totally service-connected disabled at time of death but whose deaths were not the result of their service-connected disability. The survivor qualifies if:
Payments under this provision are subject to offset by the amount received from judicial proceedings brought on account of the retiree's death.
The monthly DIC rate paid to a surviving spouse of a retiree who died:
The DIC amount paid for a spouse with one or more children of the deceased retiree is increased for each child. The amount of the DIC payment for parents vary according to the number of parents, the amount of their individual or combined total annual income, and whether they live together or if remarried, living with a spouse. The surviving spouse and parents who receive DIC may be granted a special allowance for aid and attendance if a patient is in a nursing home, disabled, or blind and needs or requires the regular aid and attendance of another person. If they are not so disabled as to require the regular aid and attendance of another person but who, due to disability, are permanently housebound, they may be granted additional special allowances. 23.7. Termination of DIC Payments: DIC payments to a surviving spouse are payable for life, as long as the spouse does not remarry. Should the surviving spouse remarry, payments are terminated for life if the marriage ended on or after 1 November 1990.
Reinstatement of DIC Eligibility Based Upon Terminated Marital Relationships. Remarriage of a surviving spouse does not bar the payment of DIC to the surviving spouse if:
The marriage was void, or annulled by a court having basic authority to render annulment decrees.
Your CAR or the nearest VA office will explain the benefit to you, the amounts that can be paid, and help you complete the required claim forms.
The claim form required to apply for this benefit is VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or Death Pension Accrued Benefits by Surviving Spouse or Child, or VA Form 21-535, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent(s).
Nonservice-Connected Death Pension. If the VARO determines that you are not eligible for DIC, you may be eligible to apply for a nonservice-connected death pension. Surviving spouses and unmarried children under age 18, age 23 if attending a VA-approved school, of deceased members with wartime service may be eligible for this pension if they meet income limitations prescribed by law. Qualifying children who become incapable of self-support because of a disability before age 18 may be eligible for a pension as long as the condition exists, unless the child marries or the child's income exceeds the income limit. The rate of pension depends on the amount of income the surviving spouse or child receives from other sources. A pension is not payable to those whose estates are so large that it is reasonable to assume the estate will maintain them financially. Eligible survivors should make application through the local VA office. The VA will determine your eligibility.
Veterans' Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) and Montgomery GI Bill Refunds. If the service member contributed to either of these programs you may be entitled to a death refund. To receive the refund, submit a letter, along with proof of relationship and a copy of the death certificate, or DD Form 1300, Report of Casualty, for retiree deaths occurring within 120 days after retiring, to the appropriate VA Regional Office listed below. The refund is made in "by-law" fashion to the spouse, children, and parents, and will not be paid to anyone else in the "by-law" chain. Your CAR or the nearest VA office can help you apply for a refund of contributions.
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. A divorced spouse must have been married to the service member at least 10 years. Monthly payments are also paid to children under age 18, or under age 19, if a full-time 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. Dependent parents are eligible for benefits at age 62 if they were more than 50 percent dependent on the deceased servicemember for their support. The amount paid can only be determined by the Social Security Administration, which has a record of the wages earned by the member during the period of both military and civilian employment under the Social Security Program. To receive this benefit, eligible survivors should make application through the nearest Social Security office. They will explain the benefit, determine your eligibility, the amounts that can be paid, and help you complete the required claim forms. You should apply early, as the law generally permits retroactive payments of 12 months.
Social Security Lump Sum Death Payment. The Social Security Administration pays a lump sum death payment, up to $255, to the surviving spouse living with the member at the time of death. If there is no surviving spouse, it is paid to the oldest child who was eligible for or entitled to Social Security benefits for the month of death, based upon the deceased member's earnings. No other survivors are entitled to this benefit. To receive this benefit, eligible survivors must make application through the nearest Social Security office. They will explain the benefit, determine your eligibility, the amount that can be paid, and help you complete the required claim forms.
Continued Service Benefits and Privileges
Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card (ID Card). The ID card is used as a means of identification to determine eligibility for the following benefits and privileges: health benefits in Uniformed Services facilities and from civilian sources, commissary and base exchange privileges, and admission to morale, welfare, and recreation activities, which includes military theaters. Each card shows the benefits and privileges authorized for the holder and allows them the use of these benefits and privileges at Uniformed Services installations where adequate services and facilities are available. This is the same type card you may now have. On the death of a retired member, the ID card held by their dependents must be canceled and a new ID card issued. Your CAR will assist you in completing a DD Form 1172, Application for Uniformed Services Identification Card DEERS Enrollment, to obtain your new ID Card. The card is issued to all eligible surviving family members 10 years of age or over who are eligible for one or more of the Service benefits and privileges mentioned in this pamphlet. Children under 10 years of age may be identified by the card issued to the surviving spouse. If the surviving spouse is deceased or not entitled, the child under age 10 may be issued a separate card.
Medical Benefits. Subject to the installation commander's determination of availability, eligible family members may receive inpatient and outpatient care, including pharmacy services at Uniformed Services medical treatment facilities where adequate services and facilities are available. If you remarry someone outside the uniformed services, you are no longer covered. If the marriage is annulled, you may be eligible for reinstatement after the annulment.
TRICARE is the Department of Defense managed health care program designed to improve beneficiary access to care, assure affordable and high quality care, provide choice, and contain costs to beneficiaries and the Department of Defense. TRICARE offers eligible family members a choice of three health care options, prime, extra, and standard for seeking care under the TRICARE program. Each option has different cost-sharing features and degrees of freedom for using civilian providers. TRICARE service centers are established at or near each military installation to assist family members in obtaining care and services as necessary. TRICARE does not cover dependent parents and parents-in-law; however, they are eligible for care in the military medical treatment facilities on a space available basis. For more detailed information on TRICARE visit their world wide web site at http://www.ochampus.mil, or contact the health benefits advisor at your nearest medical treatment facility.
Commissary Privileges. Subject to the installation commander's determination of availability, the unremarried or 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.
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 unremarried or 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.
Theater Privileges. Subject to the installation commander's determination of availability, eligible family members can attend motion picture theaters on military installations. Family members must have current ID cards.
Transient Quarters. Subject to the installation commander's determination of availability, eligible family members of deceased retirees may occupy transient quarters on a space-available basis when approved by the installation commander. Contact the billeting office to determine the commander's policy and to request accommodations. Family members must have current ID cards.
Recreation Activities: Subject to the installation commander's determination of availability, as an unremarried or unmarried surviving spouse, you are entitled to membership in the Officer's or Enlisted Open Mess. The same applies to you and your children in the use of other recreational activities on a military installation such as the golf course, fitness center, bowling alley, and hobby shops.
Above Information Courtesy of United States military