New Survivor Casualty Assistance Form Offers Personalized, Timely Support

Young woman relaxing on sofa with laptop

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.

Honoring Gold Star Families

Close-up of a gold star on a blue shirt

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

Service member teaching class

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.

Tax Extensions for Survivors

Man helping another man with filing paperwork

If you’re a survivor of a service member who died on active duty, you may have the option of taking extra time to file your tax return.

The deadline for filing tax returns, paying taxes, filing claims for refunds and taking other actions with the Internal Revenue Service may be extended for 180 days after:

  • The last day the service member was in a combat zone, had qualifying service outside of the combat zone, or served in a contingency operation (or the last day the area qualifies as a combat zone or the operation qualifies as a contingency operation)
  • The last day of any continuous qualified hospitalization for injury from service in the combat zone or contingency operation or while performing qualifying service outside of the combat zone, (qualified hospitalization is any hospitalization outside the United States, and up to five years of hospitalization in the United States).

Military OneSource MilTax helps service members and their families address tax situations specific to military life, including tax forgiveness, refunds and extensions for surviving family members.

Additional extensions

In addition to the 180 days, the filing deadline is extended by the number of days that remained for filing the federal income tax return when the service member qualified for the extension. For example, you generally have from Jan. 1 to April 15 each year to file your federal income tax return. Other extensions include the following:

  • Any days of this period that were left when the service member entered the combat zone –— or the entire period if the qualifying service began before Jan. 1 –— are added to the 180 days when determining the last day allowed for filing.
  • When the date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day.

Spouse entitlements

Spouses of individuals who served in a combat zone or contingency operation are entitled to the same deadline extensions with two exceptions.

  • The extension does not apply to a spouse for any tax year beginning more than two years after the date that the area ceased to be a combat zone, or the operation ceased to be a contingency operation.
  • The extension also does not apply to a spouse for any period the qualifying individual is hospitalized in the United States for injuries incurred in a combat zone or contingency operation.

What the filing extension covers

Contact your installation legal assistance office if the Internal Revenue Service fails to recognize an extension for which you’re qualified.

The deadline extension provision applies to:

  • Filing any return of income, estate, gift, employment or excise tax
  • Paying any income, estate, gift, employment or excise tax
  • Filing a petition with the tax court for redetermination of a deficiency, or for review of a tax court decision
  • Filing a claim for credit or refund of any tax
  • Suing for any claim for credit or refund
  • Making a qualified retirement contribution to an individual retirement account
  • Allowing a credit or refund of any tax by the Internal Revenue Service
  • Assessing of any tax by the Internal Revenue Service
  • Giving or making any notice or demand by the Internal Revenue Service for the payment of any tax, or for any liability for any tax
  • Collection by the Internal Revenue Service of any tax due
  • Suing by the United States for any tax due

Contact your installation’s legal assistance office if the Internal Revenue Service fails to recognize an extension for which you’re qualified. No penalties or interest will be imposed for failure to file a return or pay taxes during the extension period. If you have questions or need additional help, contact a MilTax consultant at 800-342-9647. OCONUS/international? Click here for calling options.

Tax forgiveness

When a service member dies on active duty, the Internal Revenue Service may forgive the amount of federal tax the service member would have paid, as well as refund the tax paid for a period of time prior to the death. For more information on what is offered through the Internal Revenue Service and whether you qualify, refer to “Tax Forgiveness.”

Tax help is a call or click away

MilTax consultants and Military OneSource financial counselors have expertise in military-specific situations, including survivor benefits, and are here to help you find answers. MilTax also provides free, secure tax preparation and e-filing software tailored to the special circumstances of military life. Call 800-342-9647 today. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Certification Process Eases for Student Recipients of Survivor Benefit Plan

Mother helping daughter with homework

Current as of May 15, 2020


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.

A quick SBP overview

The Department of Defense sponsors and subsidizes the SBP, which provides an ongoing monthly annuity (up to 55% of the service member’s retired pay) to military spouses and/or children when a military member dies while on active duty, inactive duty or after retirement.

Coverage is automatic and at no cost for members on active duty and for Reserve Component members while performing inactive-duty training. Active-duty members can purchase coverage upon retirement. Reserve Component members can elect full-time coverage, whether on duty or not, when they reach 20 years of qualifying service for reserve retired pay.

The department’s fiscal year 2020 budget made changes to the amount of the survivor benefit. The change, which takes place over three years, specifically affects those spouses and children of service members who died on active duty when the surviving spouse previously elected to transfer the SBP annuity to a child or children.

Student eligibility for the military SBP

The SBP’s child annuity payments typically end when recipients turn 18. You are eligible to continue receiving payments until the end of the school year during which you turn 22, as long as you remain unmarried and you attend one of the following full time:

  • High school
  • Accredited trade school
  • Accredited technical school
  • Accredited vocational institute
  • Accredited college or university

Easing the certification process

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.

How to submit certification forms

Here are three no-cost ways you can submit your school certification form each term/semester. (Be sure to keep a copy for your records each time.)

  • Online: You now have a convenient online option. DFAS created a submission module, https://go.usa.gov/xymaH, where you can upload a school certification form through AskDFAS on the DFAS.mil website. This is accessible on mobile browsers. Simply fill in the required information in the online screen, and upload a PDF of your completed and signed DD Form 2788.
  • By mail:
    Defense Finance and Accounting Service
    U.S. Military Annuitant Pay
    8899 E. 56th Street
    Indianapolis, IN 46249-1300
  • By fax: 800-982-8459

If you would like to receive email reminders when it is time to submit your school certifications, follow the simple directions to create a profile in myPay.

Questions?

Look for additional information about military benefits on the DFAS website. You can also speak with a customer service representative at 216-522-5955 or 800-321-1080, or write to the address above.

Military OneSource and the Office of Financial Readiness have more resources and tips to help you and your family members prepare for your financial future. Follow FINRED on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and look for more on YouTube (streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks) and the FINRED website and blog.

Moving After the Death of Your Loved One

Woman sitting with moving boxes

Moving after the death of a loved one can be an important step toward creating your new normal. However, it can be emotionally exhausting. In addition to grieving, you may be faced with deciding where to relocate and worried about what to do with your loved one’s belongings.

Deciding where to move

Some things to consider when choosing your next home:

  • The best location to find support. Depending on your situation, you may find it comforting to move near family and friends, especially if you have young children. You may want to relocate near a military installation for a variety of services for yourself as well as your children.
  • Seeking new employment. You may want to consider looking into employment opportunities before you decide where to move. If you’re seeking employment through the federal government, you may be able to take advantage of special preference programs. Contact Military OneSource’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities to get a certified career counselor in your corner. Your SECO career coach can connect you with employers, education or other career resources in your current or new area.
  • The affordability of your location. Perhaps you need to relocate to a place that allows you to live comfortably with your survivor benefits.

What’s next?

Once you’ve made a decision about where to move, you may want to:

Take your time with your loved one’s possessions

You, and only you, should decide what to do with your loved one’s personal belongings. When you are ready, you can sort your loved one’s belongings at your own pace and may want to consider asking friends and family for help. Ask yourself questions about each item to help you decide what to do with it such as:

  • Could this item make a good heirloom for kids or grandkids?
  • Would a family friend find comfort in the item?
  • Can I donate it to charity to provide comfort to others?
  • Should I keep it for myself?

Resources

Moving away from the military doesn’t mean that your relationship with the military has to end. As a surviving spouse, you have access to military installations and may access your Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities, commissary, exchange and medical privileges.

Military OneSource can help you through this process. Available 24 hours a day, this free service can provide you help through:

Moving isn’t a one-person job. Tap into the support that is available to you and take advantage of the resources that can help you take this important step forward to your new normal.

Understanding the Survivor Benefit Plan

Soldiers folding flag over casket

The Survivor Benefit Plan, or SBP, allows retired service members to allocate a portion of their retired pay to a spouse or other eligible beneficiary after their death. Every retiring service member with an eligible spouse or child receives automatic enrollment in the Survivor Benefit Plan at the maximum level.

Only retirees pay into the Survivor Benefit Plan. It is not an insurance policy — it’s an annuity.

If you are on active duty and have a spouse and/or children, they receive automatic protection under the Survivor Benefit Plan at no cost to you, should you die while still on active duty. If you are divorced, your former spouse may receive benefits instead of your current spouse based on the requirements a court-ordered divorce decree has imposed, so it’s important to ensure you make the appropriate changes to your policy.

Learn how the Survivor Benefit Plan works.

Enrollment eligibility

As you prepare for retirement, you will be required to make a decision about the Survivor Benefit Plan and must sign your DD Form 2656 before your retirement date. Here are the available election types:

  • Spouse only — This is the most common election. If you have an eligible spouse and you choose anything less than full coverage, the spouse’s notarized signature must be obtained for the election to be considered valid. You may choose coverage for a spouse or a former spouse, but not both. A former spouse is not automatically enrolled. If a former spouse is elected, the spouse’s concurrence is not required.
  • Spouse and children — The spouse is the primary beneficiary. Children receive the Survivor Benefit Plan only if the spouse loses eligibility for it. The children are covered in equal shares as long as they are your legal, unmarried children and are under the age of 18 or, if older than 18, are enrolled in an accredited college or university. Children enrolled in higher education are eligible until they reach age 22 or leave school. Incapacitated or disabled children are eligible if the physical or mental disability existed before their 18th birthday or was incurred before age 22 while the child was pursuing a full-time course of study.
  • Children only — Children are eligible up to age 18, or 22 if full-time, unmarried students. The 55% annuity is divided equally among eligible children.
  • Former spouse or former spouse and children — This is similar to the spouse and children election, but it’s for former spouse and children. Only the eligible children of the service member’s former marriage qualify for coverage.
  • Person with insurable interest — As a retiring, unmarried member, you can choose coverage for someone in whom you have a legitimate insurable interest. Examples could be a brother or sister or a child who is beyond eligibility for child coverage.
  • No beneficiary — If you do not have any eligible beneficiaries, you are not required to elect coverage.

Student eligibility for the military SBP

The SBP’s child annuity payments typically end when recipients turn 18. Children are eligible to continue receiving payments until the end of the school year during which they turn 22, as long as they remain unmarried and attend one of the following full time:

  • High school
  • Accredited trade school
  • Accredited technical school
  • Accredited vocational institute
  • Accredited college or university

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.

Enrollment period — It is important to make a decision about your Survivor Benefit Plan election before you retire because it is difficult to make changes after enrollment. Consider making your SBP election 60 to 90 days before you retire. Elections that are not made by the date the member is placed on the retired list result in automatic SBP coverage.

Terminating coverage — As a plan participant, you have a one-year window to terminate SBP coverage between the second and third year following the date you began to receive retired pay. However, once you terminate SBP coverage, it cannot be reinstated. Coverage for an insurable interest may be terminated at any time.

You can get more information about plan basics from the Office of the Secretary of Defense Military Compensation page.

Understanding the Probate Process, Survivor Benefits and Resources for Financial Planning

Intern fills out papers in legal office

Current as of May 15, 2020


While no actions can erase the pain you feel after losing a family member or loved one, getting your financial and legal affairs in order can be a small step in the right direction and can provide some peace of mind during this difficult time.

Here are a few essentials to consider as you address financial and legal affairs in the days following the death of a loved one.

Understanding the probate process

When your loved one dies, the probate process will begin in the county of their legal residence at the time of death. If your loved one had a will, the person they named as the executor will take charge of finalizing his or her affairs. If there isn’t a will, the court will appoint an administrator. With or without a will, the probate process can be divided into four steps. Here’s what you can expect to happen.

Step 1: the probate hearing

  • The judge formally appoints the executor or administrator to be the personal representative throughout the probate process.
  • The validity of the will is established and the court issues an order “admitting the will to probate,” which causes the will to become public record.
  • The personal representative is given a document, called the “letters of administration” or “letters testamentary,” that grants him or her the full authority to deal with the decedent’s probate property and accounts.

Step 2: collection and inventory of assets

The designated personal representative takes an inventory of the estate assets and files this inventory with the court. These assets may include money owed to the decedent or the estate, bank and stock brokerage accounts, and evaluations of real estate or property.

  • Money owed to the decedent or the estate includes loans, a final paycheck, life insurance payouts or retirement account(s).
  • Bank and stock brokerage accounts includes account numbers and latest balances.
  • Evaluations of real estate or property will probably require a professional appraisal.

Step 3: bills, taxes, expenses and creditors

  • Any final bills, debts, taxes or claims against the deceased are reviewed for their validity and then paid with funds from the estate. You are not personally responsible for paying these expenses out-of-pocket, even if estate funds are not available.
  • Once all debts and bills are paid, the personal representative files a report with the court to account for all income received and payments made on behalf of the estate.

Step 4: formal transfer of remaining estate property

  • The remainder of the property is distributed as the will directs or according to state law if there isn’t a will.
  • Depending on the state, there may be a state-required waiting period before property can be officially sold or transferred, which is usually six months.
  • Once all remaining estate property is transferred to heirs and beneficiaries, the personal representative completes a final settlement of the estate that details all dealings.
  • The judge then approves the final settlement and the personal representative’s duties are complete.

If you need more information on the probate process, contact your local legal assistance attorney. You can find legal assistance offices through the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website.

Make sure your wishes are properly carried out should the unthinkable happen by creating a last will and testament. Plan ahead with everything you need to know about estate planning.

Understanding benefits

The Department of Defense and other agencies are committed to doing everything possible to assist you as you deal with the financial details and decisions that surround the death of an active-duty service member. Every service member’s family may be eligible for certain benefits, such as:

Death gratuity: Death gratuity is a lump-sum payment made by the Department of Defense 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 the 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.

Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance, or SGLI: Upon the death of the service member, SGLI payment is made by the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.

Survivor Benefit Plan, or SBP: Surviving spouses or children of service members who die in the line of 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.

Student eligibility for military SBP: The SBP’s child annuity payments typically end when recipients turn 18. You are eligible to continue receiving payments until the end of the school year during which you turn 22, as long as you remain unmarried and you attend one of the following full time:

  • High school
  • Accredited trade school
  • Accredited technical school
  • Accredited vocational institute
  • Accredited college or university

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.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC: This compensation will probably be the most 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 who deaths are determined by the VA to be service-related.

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 before the age of 18. The amount paid will be determined by the Social Security Administration.

Using your online survivor benefits report to set financial goals

The online survivor benefits report (PDF), 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”: See how different scenarios, such as changes to marital, education and disability status, will impact your current and future benefits. For example, if a spouse remarries before age 55, the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity is suspended, but can be reinstated if the remarriage ends by death or divorce. If the surviving spouse remarries at age 55 or older, the annuity continues uninterrupted for the duration of the spouse’s life. Current and “what if” reports can be saved or printed.
  • Homeownership possibilities: Look at your current finances and your financial future and decide if, or when, you should buy a home. Surviving spouses who have not remarried may be eligible for a Department of Veterans Affairs home loan guaranty, which they can use to buy a home, build a home or refinance an existing loan. Additional information about the VA home loan program is available on the VA website.
  • Education benefits: Whether you’re thinking about your own education or your child’s, the interactive report can help you financially plan for obtaining higher education, certification, technical or vocational school, apprenticeships or other educational programs. As a surviving spouse, you may access education benefits from the VA up to 20 years after the death of your service member. Surviving military children can typically use their benefits between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • Retirement options: Your report will show you how much money you should be receiving now and project your future benefits. That can help you decide how much money to set aside now for your retirement years.

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. Meanwhile, Military OneSource also offers financial counseling and can help you with financial- or benefits-related questions. Call 800-342-9647. OCONUS/Overseas? Click here for calling options.

Contact the family assistance support team at 877-827-2471, or by email at osbr@afsc.com, about any questions concerning your report. Recipients of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance 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 on behalf of the VA.

Long-term survivor care programs

The services’ long-term survivor care programs also provide free services with financial counselors, as well as Military OneSource:

Tax Forgiveness

Service member solutes

After the death of a loved one, taxes might not be on your list of things to think about. However, your loved one may be entitled to certain benefits, including tax forgiveness. Here are answers to some common questions about tax liability and forgiveness.

Under what circumstances can a deceased service member’s tax liability be forgiven?

Tax liability is the entire sum of the money you pay annually in taxes to the federal government. This can be forgiven or refunded if a service member dies under any of the following circumstances:

  • While on active duty in a combat zone
  • From wounds, disease or other injury received in a combat zone
  • From wounds or injury incurred in a terrorist or military action

Which tax years are forgiven?

This varies based on the circumstances of the death:

  • For combat zone-related deaths – The Internal Revenue Service forgives the service member’s tax liability for the tax year in which the death occurred and any previous tax years ending on or after the first day of active duty in a combat zone. Any remaining unpaid taxes from previous years are also forgiven.
  • For deaths outside a combat zone, but in direct support of military operations – The same forgiveness benefits apply as those for combat zone-related deaths.
  • For terrorist or military action related-deaths – The Internal Revenue Service forgives the service member’s tax liability for the year in which the injury occurred (even if death occurs in a separate year) and one year prior. So, a service member who dies in 2015 from injuries sustained in a 2014 terrorist attack could receive tax forgiveness beginning in 2013.

How does tax forgiveness affect joint filing?

  • If you and your spouse typically file jointly, forgiveness or refund only applies to the deceased service member’s portion of your tax liability.
  • When you submit a claim for tax forgiveness, you’ll need to determine the portion of your joint tax liability for which the service member would have been liable if a separate return had been filed.

How can I submit a claim for tax forgiveness?

Tax forgiveness isn’t automatic, so you’ll need to submit a survivor’s claim:

  • If the tax return has not yet been filed, file a Form 1040 with the service member’s W-2.
  • If the tax return has already been filed, file a separate Form 1040X for each year in question.

You can identify your claim by writing one of the following on the total tax line on Forms 1040 or 1040X:

  • Iraqi Freedom-KIA
  • Enduring Freedom-KIA
  • Kosovo Operation-KIA
  • Desert Storm-KIA
  • Former Yugoslavia-KIA

If the service member was killed in a terrorist action, write KITA on the front of the return and on the line for total tax. You’ll also need to include:

  • A computation of the decedent’s tax liability
  • Form 1310: “Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer”
  • A death certificate or equivalent from the Department of Defense or the Department of State

Military OneSource MilTax consultants can provide free information about your tax situation. You can also access free tax preparation and e-filing services through Military OneSource by calling toll-free 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

You also have the option of reaching out for assistance with tax preparation concerning your loved one through the judge advocate office closest to you or to request financial counseling through your service’s long-term survivor care program: