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Understanding the Role of the Casualty Assistance Officer

casualty assistance officer talking to survivor

To ensure that military families have support when a service member is declared deceased, missing or whereabouts unknown, the Defense Department’s Casualty Assistance program assigns a dedicated casualty assistance officer to advise and assist the primary next of kin. Separate assistance officers will also be assigned to the parents of married service members, who are considered the secondary next of kin, if they are not the primary.

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Each military service branch has different titles for their casualty assistance officers. Although the titles may differ, the services provided are the same.

  • Army — Casualty Assistance Officer
  • Marine Corps — Casualty Assistance Calls Officer
  • Navy — Casualty Assistance Calls Officer
  • Air Force — Casualty Assistance Representative
  • Coast Guard — Casualty Assistance Calls Officer

Meeting your casualty assistance officer

Shortly after you’ve been notified of your service member’s status, you’ll receive a phone call from your casualty assistance officer to arrange a visit, unless they are the one who notified you of the situation. The officer will:

  • Ask if you have immediate concerns.
  • Confirm your mailing address.
  • Arrange to meet with you at the earliest time and place convenient for you (it’s important to meet with your casualty assistance officer as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours of his or her call).

The first visit will be brief, probably lasting less than an hour. When you meet, your casualty assistance officer may:

  • Confirm a mailing address where you can be reached for the next 45 days. If this is not the same as your current mailing address, you should provide both your current and future addresses.
  • Ask for verification of all known family members, including the marital status of your loved one and any previous marriages, copies of divorce decrees and child custody orders.
  • Request identification of all the service member’s children. Don’t be offended if your casualty assistance officer asks you whether a loved one was married before and if there are any children from that or other relationships.
  • Verify names other than his or her given name — nickname, middle name or maiden name — your loved one was known by.

Follow-up visits

Your casualty assistance officer will schedule a follow-up visit soon after the initial visit and will continue to schedule as many visits as necessary. Depending on your service member’s branch of service, you may also meet with a mortuary affairs officer. During these meetings, you will discuss payment of the death gratuity, preparation for the funeral, any honors due to your loved one and any questions you may have.

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