Your casualty assistance officer, or CAO, or mortuary officer is there to assist you with making funeral and burial arrangements in honor of your loved one’s service and sacrifice. He or she can provide you with available burial options provided by the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. The CAO or mortuary officer will help with the government entitlements and reimbursements for the costs associated with these services. When a service member dies on active duty, the Department of Defense will pay the funeral and burial expenses, which also includes the following benefits:
- Preparation of remains
- Casketing and inurning
- Burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs- or Department of Defense-administered national cemetery, military service-administered cemetery, state or private cemetery
- Government headstone
Person Authorized to Direct Disposition, or PADD
- Decisions relating to funerals and burials are the responsibility of the person authorized to direct disposition, or PADD, of human remains.
- All service members are required to name a PADD on their DD Form 93. According to federal law, a PADD is the person identified by the decedent on the DD Form 93, regardless of the relationship of the designee to the decedent. Married service members are not required to name their spouse as the PADD.
- When a service member dies while on active duty or active duty for training, the DoD assumes responsibility for the preparation, casketing and transportation of the service member to the destination chosen by the PADD.
- A person, usually the primary next of kin, or PNOK, is authorized to direct disposition of human remains. The secretary of the military department concerned is deemed to have such standing if no other such person is available.
Things to consider
- Deciding whether to view the remains — A licensed mortician will make a recommendation whether you should view the remains. The Department of Defense does not seal caskets as, ultimately, the decision to view your loved one’s remains is yours to make.
- Travel arrangements to the burial site — The government will provide transportation to the burial site for the service member’s immediate family, including the surviving spouse, children, siblings of the service member, the parents of both the service member and the surviving spouse, and the person authorized to direct disposition of remains. Your casualty assistance officer or mortuary officer can help with your travel arrangements.
- Arranging for military funeral honors — Your casualty assistance officer will be able to discuss with you any military honors and funeral benefits due to your service member. If you would like military funeral honors, your funeral director or casualty assistance officer or mortuary officer will arrange for the funeral honors detail, obtain interment flags and coordinate the presentation of the flags and flag cases and other awards.
- Burial in a national, military, state or private cemetery — If you choose to make burial arrangements at a private cemetery, you may be reimbursed for usual and customary expenses. Your casualty assistance officer can provide more information on what expenses are and how much is reimbursable before you make any arrangements, and can assist you with filing the claim. Check with your casualty assistance officer or mortuary officer to see if your service will take care of the funeral and burial expenses directly with the funeral home and or cemetery of your choosing instead of you having to pay all expenses upfront.