Casualty Assistance – Coast Guard

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This page includes information on casualty and family support services for the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard website offers links to guides explaining the Survivor Benefit Plan and Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan for Coast Guard personnel. It also features a Survivor Benefit Plan calculator.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance is a private, nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to members of the Coast Guard community during times of need through interest-free loans, personal grants, and confidential financial counseling and referral services.

The Coast Guard Compensation Division’s website provides information about benefits and resources available to members of the Coast Guard. It includes links to information about Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, Survivor Benefit Plan, Federal Long Term Insurance Program, Decedent Affairs and death gratuity.

Casualty Assistance – Army

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This page includes information about casualty and family support services for the Army.

Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division provides casualty assistance resources for commanders and family members. It has a thorough list of publications, public laws, forms, benefits, terms and acronyms. It also has a link to a comprehensive, user-friendly survivor’s guide.

Army Emergency Relief is a private, nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to help soldiers and their dependents. It can provide emergency financial assistance to active-duty and retired soldiers and their dependents when there is a valid need. It can assist surviving family members by arranging transportation, providing low-cost loans and offering other forms of support.

Army Long Term Family Case Management provides one-stop resolution assistance for soldiers’ survivors, helping with questions regarding benefits, outreach, advocacy and support. The call center assists bereaved families after they transition from their casualty assistance officer.

The Army Wounded Warrior Program assists and advocates for severely wounded, ill and injured soldiers and their families by supporting and advising them during medical treatment, rehabilitation and transition back into the Army or a civilian community. The website provides more information about the program, Army benefits and a list of frequently-asked questions about the Army Wounded Warrior Program.

Casualty Assistance – Air Force

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This page includes information on casualty and family support services for the Air Force.

The Air Force Aid Society is a private, nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to Air Force members and their families, including interest-free loans, grants or a combination of both. The society maintains an open door policy that encourages individuals to apply for assistance when they feel an emergency situation exists. For surviving spouses and dependent minor orphans, the society provides emergency assistance at or shortly after the death of an Air Force member.

The Air Force Personnel Center provides answers to frequently-asked questions concerning casualty services, casualty assistance representatives and death benefits and allows users to submit additional questions.

The Air Force Wounded Warrior program was created in 2005 as a Department of Defense and Air Force initiative to provide personalized care to airmen who are separated or retired as a result of illness or injury received in support of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

New Survivor Casualty Assistance Form Offers Personalized, Timely Support

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The newly created Survivor Family Member Inquiry Form available on the Military OneSource website gives surviving family members of active-duty deaths an opportunity to submit an inquiry if they are not sure where to go for answers.

Form Connects Survivors to Helping Hands

Submit your questions or concerns through this Survivor Family Member Inquiry Form.

Every survivor has unique circumstances, concerns and challenges. By filling out this form, you’ll provide Department of Defense representatives with the information for them to answer important questions and connect your family with the appropriate resources.

You can expect a Casualty Assistance program manager to reach out to you within five days to confirm receipt of your information.

Military OneSource also provides direct access to information for the survivors of service members who died while on active duty. Survivors of veterans should go through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for assistance.

Form Clarifies Next Steps for Survivors

By completing the Survivor Family Member Inquiry Form, assistance is right around the corner. This new form:

  • Includes 10 brief questions and a comment field for you to fill out and note your questions or concerns. The information you provide will enable you to receive a detailed response.
  • Assures you that a DOD Casualty Assistance program manager will contact you within five business days to confirm that your information was received.
  • Ensures that the information you provide will remain private. However, the use of personal emails is necessary as a means for managers to respond to requests, suggestions or concerns.

If for some reason a DOD Casualty Assistance program manager cannot answer your questions, they will direct you to a resource that can help you get the information you need.

Survivor Casualty Assistance Form Summary

The Survivor Family Member Inquiry Form is another tool for you to ask your individual questions or concerns.

Once DOD personnel receive your form, they will provide you with a response to your inquiry or answers to information you requested.

Survivors do not lose their connection to the military when their service member dies. The DOD is there to help you.

Commander’s Reference

Commanders of honor guards, when your unit needs support, there is help. The Authorized Provider Partnership Program provides trained personnel who may assist a military funeral honors detail by providing additional elements of honors such as a firing party, pallbearers or a bugler upon request from the military service.

Prior to engaging authorized providers, it will be helpful for you to:

  • Understand the laws and Department of Defense policy and instructions governing the use of AP3.
  • Determine the organization you will partner with for the AP3.
  • Establish a training program and training schedule.
  • Assist authorized providers with obtaining material and equipment.
  • Establish an AP3 recognition program.

A variety of organizations can provide AP3 partners. Various Veterans Service Organizations exist and are currently supporting the AP3 program. Two nationally recognized VSOs include Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and The American Legion. Veterans from VSOs are very active and interested in providing support to honor the service of our nation’s veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a VSO directory listing organizations providing services to the veteran community.

To receive assistance from these groups, your military service component must:

  • Establish a training program for AP3 participants
  • Publish service Military Funeral Honors ceremony standards and schedule training
  • Approve reimbursement or financial support to authorized providers for expenses incurred while assisting the detail

Consider authorized providers as partners in military funeral honors. Take the time to locate, engage and develop authorized providers while maintaining a good working relationship to ensure professionalism and proficiency in rendering military funeral honors. A sample letter of introduction is provided for your use to:

  • Explain the program
  • Introduce your unit
  • Invite organizations to participate

A viable program must include training, materials and equipment required for a professional appearance and delivery of military funeral honors. Materials and equipment are available for issue as determined by the secretary of the military department concerned.

Discussing the Program

At your first meeting with a partner, you may want to address the following:

  • Appreciation for their willingness to work with your unit
  • Roles and responsibilities of the military and the partner
  • Ceremony elements the partner will provide
  • Training
  • Benefits
  • Reimbursement of partner expenses
  • Recognition program

Questions? You can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or visit Military OneSource. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Honoring Gold Star Families

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Gold star families – spouses, children, parents, siblings or others whose loved one died in service to our nation – are a vital part of our country’s military community and history.

How did the term gold star originate? During World War I, families displayed small banners with a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces. If their service member died in service, the family replaced the blue star with a gold star. The gold star let the community know that their service member died or was killed while serving their country.

Today, the nation recognizes gold star survivors in several ways to show its deep gratitude, including:

  • Designating the last Sunday of September as Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day
  • Recognizing April 5 as Gold Star Spouses Day
  • Authorizing the Gold Star Lapel Button

These buttons are a symbol of the nation’s appreciation of a service member’s sacrifice to country and service, allowing us to honor and recognize the families of these brave men and women. To learn more about the Gold Star Lapel Button and how to honor gold star families:

Even though gold star families have experienced a great loss, their ties to the military community remain strong. Their military networks are dedicated to supporting them. To learn more about the resources and benefits available to gold star survivors, download A Survivor’s Guide to Benefits: Taking Care of Our Families, or see an overview of what’s available at Gold Star & Surviving Family Members – Benefits.

More comprehensive information about various benefits for gold star survivors can be found in the Gold Star & Surviving Family Members section of Military OneSource.

Understanding the Role of the Casualty Assistance Officer

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In its effort to ensure that military families have support in their time of need when a service member is declared deceased, whereabouts unknown or missing, the Department of Defense’s Casualty Assistance Program assigns a dedicated casualty assistance officer to advise and assist the primary next of kin.

Your casualty assistance officer

In such cases, a casualty assistance officer is to 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.

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 loved one’s status, you’ll receive a phone call from your casualty assistance officer to arrange a visit, unless your casualty assistance officer is the one who notified you of your loved one’s status. The officer will do the following:

  • Ask if you have immediate concerns
  • Confirm your mailing address
  • Arrange to meet with you at the earliest time and place convenient to 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 assistance visit will be brief, probably lasting less than an hour. When you meet your casualty assistance officer, you may be asked for the following information:

  • A mailing address where you may 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.
  • Verification of all known family members including the marital status of your loved one and any previous marriages, and copies of divorce decrees and child custody orders.
  • Identification of all the service member’s children. Please 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.
  • Verification of 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 follow-up visits as necessary. Depending on your 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.