Current as of May 15, 2020
The DOD and other agencies are committed to connecting survivors with resources to relieve financial stress and provide assistance with decision-making around the death of a service member. Following are some of the most important benefits.
Funeral and burial benefits
The DOD will care for, transport and inter your loved one.
- The surviving spouse, children and siblings of the service member, as well as the parents of both the service member and surviving spouse, are authorized to receive travel entitlements.
- If the spouse, children or parents choose not to travel to the funeral, the person authorized to direct the disposition of the service member's remains and two close relatives may use this benefit.
- Travel entitlement includes round-trip transportation and two days per diem upon arrival at the interment site.
The death gratuity is a lump-sum payment made by the DOD to the survivors or other individuals identified by the service member prior to his or her death while on active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty for training or within 120 days of release from active duty if the death is due to a service-related disability.
- The amount of death gratuity is $100,000 and is tax exempt.
- A service member may designate one or more persons to receive all or a portion of the death gratuity payment.
- The designation of a person to receive a portion of the death gratuity will be identified by the service member as a percentage of the total amount in 10% increments.
- Any amount not designated by the member will be paid to the living survivors of the member in accordance with existing law and regulation.
- The death gratuity will normally be paid to the eligible beneficiaries within 72 hours of notification.
Servicemembers Group Life Insurance
Servicemembers Group Life Insurance is low-cost group life insurance for service members on active duty, ready reservists, members of the National Guard, members of the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service, cadets and midshipmen of the four service academies and members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
- As of Sept. 1, 2005, the maximum amount of SGLI coverage is $400,000.
- The SGLI coverage is available in increments of $50,000.
- Service members are automatically insured under SGLI for the maximum coverage unless they elect in writing to reduce the amount of coverage or cancel it entirely.
- Upon the death of the service member, SGLI payment is made by the Office of Servicemembers Group Life Insurance.
TSGLI is a rider added to SGLI which provides financial assistance to service members who have incurred certain physical losses due to traumatic injuries.
- Benefits range from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on the nature of the loss.
- All service members who are insured in the SGLI program are automatically covered by TSGLI.
- For a deceased service member’s survivors to be eligible for payment under the TSGLI program, the service member must have suffered a qualifying loss and survived for a period of not less than seven full days from the date of the traumatic injury.
FSGLI is a rider to SGLI that provides life insurance coverage for a service member’s spouse and dependent children while the member is insured under the SGLI program.
- Coverage is automatically provided for spouses and dependent children of service members covered by the SGLI program, except in the case of service members married to service members on or after Jan. 2, 2013, who are required to fill out appropriate forms to opt into the program.
- This coverage provides up to a maximum of $100,000 of insurance coverage for a spouse, not to exceed the amount of SGLI coverage the insured member has in force.
- FSGLI also provides $10,000 for dependent children.
- The service member is the only beneficiary of the FSGLI policy.
Financial counseling services are offered to beneficiaries of SGLI, FSGLI and TSGLI.
- This cost-free service is offered by Financial Point on behalf of Veterans Affairs.
- Financial Point provides beneficiaries with valuable personalized financial information and expert consultation to ensure they have the tools necessary to manage their finances effectively. Consultants will not try to sell anything but merely provide financial advice.
- Beneficiaries have two years to request financial counseling services and another two years to use those services.
- Financial Point can be reached at 888-243-7351 or via email at FCS@ financialpoint.com.
Surviving spouses or children of service members who die in the line of duty while on active duty may be entitled to SBP payments. The automatic monthly SBP death benefit is provided at no cost, as service members do not pay into this benefit when on active duty.
- The SBP is not meant to be a complete estate plan, so other insurance and investments are important as well.
- The SBP annuity for a survivor of a service member who died on active duty pays a benefit equal to 55% of their retirement pay if he or she had been retired at 100% disability at the time of death.
- The amount of the “retired pay” depends on the pay grade and time in service at the date of death.
- By law, the SBP annuity of surviving spouses who also qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is offset dollar-for-dollar.
- SBP payments are subject to federal income taxes; DIC payments are tax exempt, giving the surviving spouse more “take-home” income.
- If the spouse remarries before age 55, the SBP annuity is suspended but can be reinstated if the remarriage ends by death or divorce. If remarriage occurs at 55 or older, the annuity continues uninterrupted for the duration of the spouse’s life.
Update for SBP School Certification
The certification process has gotten easier for students age 18 and older covered as a child annuitant under the military Survivor Benefit Plan.
The changes went into effect in May 2020, highlighted by the following:
- A simpler certification form
- A student’s ability to self-certify
- An extension of the certification deadline to annually instead of each term/semester
SBP annuity payments for qualifying high school and college students are not affected by school closures in the wake of coronavirus disease 2019.
The DOD simplified the process of students becoming certified in other ways, including:
- Students will now self-certify. So they will no longer need a school official’s signature or school documentation when they certify full-time attendance. With COVID-19 school closures, this truly simplifies the process.
- Simpler Child Annuitant’s Certification for Previous Attendance Letter for certifying past attendance.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service details the new certification process on their website, including all the changes. Make sure to complete the updated Child Annuitant’s School Certification form.
The DOD is taking steps to make it easier to validate each student’s eligibility with an online option for uploading and submitting school certification forms. Use the AskDFAS online upload tool.
This compensation is an important part of an eligible survivor’s long-range financial planning. It is paid to eligible survivors of active-duty service members and survivors of those veterans whose deaths are determined by the VA to be service-related.
- It is a flat monthly payment, independent of the pay grade of the veteran. This payment is adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases and is non-taxable.
- To help ease a survivor’s transition, the VA also adds a transitional benefit of $270 to the surviving spouse’s monthly DIC if there are children under age 18.
- The amount is based on a family unit, not individual children.
- It is paid for two years from the date that entitlement to DIC commences, but is discontinued when the child reaches age 18, or under the age of 23 if attending school.
- This benefit is payable for the life of the spouse, provided the spouse does not remarry before the age of 57. However, should a remarriage end, DIC benefits can be reinstated.
- The surviving parent(s) of a service member who died in the line of duty or of a veteran whose death resulted from a service-related injury or illness may be eligible to receive Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. Parents’ DIC is tax-free income.
- Eligibility and the benefit rate is based on an income below a limit that is established by law.
Assistance from the Social Security Administration
- Monthly Social Security payments are paid to a spouse or a divorced spouse with children of the deceased service member under the age of 16, or disabled children in their care who meet the eligibility requirements.
- Monthly payments are also paid to children under the age of 18, or 19 if they are full-time students, or older children who were disabled before the age of 18.
- The amount paid will be determined by the Social Security Administration.
- Up to $255 in Social Security benefits may be paid to the surviving spouse living with the member at the time of death.
- If there is no surviving spouse, the sum is paid to the child or children who are eligible for Social Security benefits for the month of death.
- If more than one child is eligible for the month of death, the sum is divided equally among all such children. No other survivors are entitled to this benefit.
The online survivor benefits report
The online survivor benefits report allows you to view current and estimated future benefits, and set up savings and spending plans so you can forecast your financial future.
- Some useful features include: the “what ifs” (seeing how different scenarios will impact your current and future benefits), homeownership possibilities, education benefits, retirement options, and your wish list (travel dreams, etc.).
- Start preparing for your future by accessing your online survivor benefits report, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To log in and view personal reports, select your loved one’s branch of service below and follow instructions on the site:
- If you don’t already have a Premium DS Logon account, you can create one on the DMDC’s website.
- Contact the Family Assistance Support Team at 877-827-2471, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, about any questions concerning your report.
- Recipients of Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, offered by the VA, are entitled to a lifetime of free financial advice from FinancialPoint, an independent company whose team of professionals are experts in handling a wide range of financial matters.
The Department of Veteran Affairs offers a number of education benefits for family members of a deceased service member.
- Montgomery GI Bill: The VA pays a special Montgomery GI Bill death benefit to a designated survivor in the event of the service-connected death of a service member while on active duty or within one year after discharge or release. The amount paid will be equal to the participant’s actual military pay reduction, less any education benefits paid.
- The Post-9/11 GI-Bill: If the service member transferred any months of unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits before their death, a survivor may be able to start using this benefit immediately. Children must use their benefits before they turn 26.
- Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship: Children and surviving spouses of those who died in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, are potentially eligible to receive the Fry Scholarship.
- Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program: Surviving spouses are eligible for educational benefits for up to 20 years after the date of the service member’s death.
- Special benefits: Dependents over the age of 14 with physical or mental disabilities that impair their ability to pursue an education may receive benefits for specialized vocational or restorative training, including speech and voice correction, language retraining, lip reading, auditory training, Braille reading and writing and similar programs. Certain disabled or surviving spouses are also eligible.
VA home loans
- Surviving spouses who have not remarried may be eligible for a VA home loan guaranty. A VA guaranty helps protect lenders from loss if the borrower fails to repay the loan.
- Eligible surviving spouses can use the VA home loan guaranty to buy a home, build a home or refinance an existing home loan.
- Additional information about the VA home loan program is available on the VA website.
Health care, commissary and exchange
The death of your loved one does not end your rights to certain service benefits and privileges.
- Surviving spouses who do not remarry are eligible to continue their TRICARE benefits as an active-duty family member for three years at no cost. Afterward, they become Transitional Survivors and receive benefits at the retiree family member rate, which may require a payment of a yearly enrollment fee.
- You are also eligible to continue shopping at the exchange and commissary indefinitely unless you remarry.
- Unmarried children of the deceased service member may use these privileges, at no cost, until they are 21, or 23 if enrolled in a full-time course of study in a secondary school or in a full-time course of study in an institution of higher education.
- You may use the installation theater and some other Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities.
- Family members must ensure their information listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System is updated.