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Casualty and Survivor Benefits

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burial flagIt is not easy to consider, but if you become disabled or are killed while on deployment, your family will be entitled to benefits from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some benefits are automatic and some require your family to apply for them. Because of this, your family should be aware of the benefits available and how to access them.

 Disability Compensation

If you incur injuries or diseases during your service on active duty, or had injuries that were made worse by your active military service, you may be eligible to receive disability compensation from the VA. Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to veterans, who were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions, with service-related disabilities. The amount of the benefit varies depending on the severity of disability and whether you have dependents. To apply for disability compensation, you will need to have your discharge papers, dependency records (i.e., marriage and children’s birth certificates), medical evidence of the disability (doctor or hospital report), and a completed application through the VA.

 Burial Benefits

The DoD and the VA both offer benefits and services to your family members to aid in your funeral and burial. The DoD provides for the transport and interment of your remains and authorizes travel entitlements for your surviving spouse, children, and parents. The travel entitlement includes round trip transportation and two days of per diem at the interment site.

There are a number of additional services provided by the individual branches of Service and the VA:

Military Funeral Honors

Military funeral honors provided by the DoD give a final “thank you” to veterans who have defended our nation. At a minimum, the honors consist of the ceremonial folding and presenting of the American flag and sounding of Taps. Additional elements that may be included are a firing party or color guard. Military funeral honors will be denied to you if you have been convicted of a capital offense under federal or state law.

Burial and Plot-Interment Allowance

There are some instances in which your family members may qualify for partial reimbursement of costs associated with your funeral and burial. Your family members may be eligible for burial allowances if they have paid for your funeral, have not been reimbursed by another source (such as your current employer or other government agency), and if you were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The burial benefit is not automatic; your family will have to complete an application for it through the VA.

Burial Flags

These areUnited Statesflags provided at no cost that drape your casket or urn if you have served honorably in the military to honor the memory of your service. Your next-of-kin is eligible to receive the flag, and when there is no next-of-kin the VA will give the flag to a friend if she or he requests it.

Government-Furnished Headstones and Markers

 Upon request, at no charge, the VA will furnish a government headstone or marker for your grave in any cemetery around the world. Also, they will potentially furnish headstones for your spouse and dependents in a national, military installation, or state veterans cemetery.

 If you only served in limited active duty for training status in the National Guard or Reserves, you are generally not eligible for headstones and markers unless there are special circumstances (i.e., death while on duty as a result of training). If you have twenty or more years of service in the National Guard or Reserves and are entitled to retirement benefits, you are also entitled to a government-furnished headstone or marker.

Presidential Memorial Certificate

The PMC is provided by the VA and is a gold-embossed paper certificate, signed by the president of theUnited States, to honor the memory of honorably-discharged veterans. The PMC is available to your next-of-kin and loved ones when they apply through the VA.

Burial in a National Cemetery

If you or your family chooses burial in a national cemetery with available space, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) will provide the opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care for the grave site, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a PMC at no cost to the family. For your spouse and dependents who elect to be buried in a national cemetery with you, the NCA provides perpetual care for their grave site and your spouse’s and/or dependent’s name and date of birth and death will be inscribed on your headstone. Eligible spouses and/or dependents may be buried in the cemetery even if they predecease you.

Burial in a Private Cemetery

If you or your family chooses burial for you in a private cemetery, at your family’s request, the VA will provide a government-furnished headstone or marker, burial flag, and PMC at no cost. Your spouse and/or dependents will not be eligible to receive any burial benefits for themselves if you are buried in a private cemetery.

 Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance

SGLI is a low-cost life insurance protection policy offered through the VA for service members on active duty, members of the National Guard, and ready reservists. SGLI automatically covers you for the maximum unless you declined coverage or elected a lower amount of coverage. To receive benefits under SGLI, your family members will be required to submit a claim to the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI).

 Traumatic Injury Protection under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance

When you are covered by SGLI, the Traumatic Injury Protection under SGLI (TSGLI) automatically provides coverage for you against traumatic injury that results in certain severe loss. The amount of the benefit varies depending on the severity of the injury. To receive benefits under TSGLI, you will be required to complete a form and submit it to the OSGLI.

 Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance

FSGLI automatically provides life insurance coverage to your spouse and dependent children when you are covered by SGLI unless you decline the coverage in writing. If you decline or reduce coverage for your family members, you can reinstate or increase their coverage at a later date, provided your spouse is in good health at the time. Coverage amounts for FSGLI cannot exceed the coverage amount you selected for yourself under SGLI.

 Veterans’ Group Life Insurance

If you are covered by SGLI, you are eligible to convert your policy to Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) if you are being released from active duty or the Reserves or were released within the last 120 days, you are a member of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) or Inactive National Guard (ING), or you are a Reservist who suffered an injury or disability during active duty or inactive duty for training for a period of less than thirty-one days and became uninsurable at standard premium rates. Within the 120 days after you separate, you may apply for VGLI without proof of good health; after 120 days have elapsed, you will have an additional year to apply but good health requirements must be met.

 The Uniformed Services Survivor Benefit Plan

The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is administered by the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS). It allows your family members to continue to receive a portion of your retired pay after your death, even if you die on active duty. You’re automatically enrolled in the program at no cost, but your retired pay will be reduced such that your family members can continue to receive a portion of your retired pay after your death. The amount of this benefit depends on the amount of your retired pay you selected on which to base SBP participation.

 Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan

Like the SBP, the Reserve Component SBP (RCSBP) is an annuity paid to surviving spouses

and, in some instances, dependent children of Reserve Component service members who elected to enroll in the program and completed the satisfactory years of service qualifying them for retirement pay. As with the SBP, surviving spouses and/or dependent children can receive a portion of your elected retirement pay, but for the RCSBP, the amount of the benefit to your spouse and/or children is reduced by a Reserve Portion Cost.

 Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

The DIC is a monthly tax-free benefit that is paid to eligible survivors of a service member who died on active duty, veterans who died from Service-related disabilities, and certain veterans who were being paid 100% VA disability compensation at time of death. Surviving spouses and dependent children of deceased service members may be entitled to benefits through DIC. Benefits from DIC are not automatic; to receive benefits, family members must apply through the VA. The amount of the benefit varies depending on the date of the service member’s death (before or after 1 January 1993), the member’s rank, whether the survivors are entitled to additional allowances (disability, Aid and Attendance (A&A), housebound, etc.), number of dependent children, etc.

 Parent(s) Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

Parent(s) DIC is an income-based monthly benefit for parents, or a parent, of a service member or veteran who died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated while on active duty or active duty for training, an injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on active duty or active duty for training, or a Service-connected disability. Surviving parents are only eligible for the Parent(s) DIC benefit if their countable income is below a set amount. Benefits for Parent(s) DIC are also not automatic; if your parents believe they qualify for the benefit, they will have to apply through the VA. The amount of the benefit varies depending on the classification category for your parent (sole surviving parent not living with a spouse, one of two parents not living with a spouse, or one of two parents living with a spouse or other parent).

Death Pension

The Death Pension is a benefit payable to eligible surviving spouses and children of deceased wartime veterans, based on financial need. Survivors of deceased service members may be eligible to receive the death pension if the veteran had wartime service and his/her death was not due to service. If surviving family members are determined to be eligible for both the Death Pension and the DIC, the VA will pay whichever benefit entitles the family to the most money. Surviving family members cannot collect both DIC and the Death Pension. Benefits from the Death Pension are not automatic; to receive benefits, family members must apply through the VA. The amount of the benefit depends on the income level of the surviving spouse or child. If your spouse is below the income level established by the VA, the VA will pay the difference between the established limit and your surviving spouse’s or child’s income.

Death Gratuity

This is a lump-sum payment provided by the DoD to the surviving family of a service member to assist in meeting immediate living expenses. Death gratuity payments will only be made if you die on active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty for training, or within 120 days of release from active duty due to a service-related disability. You may designate one or more persons to receive a portion of the benefit, but the amount payable to your designated beneficiaries must be in 10% increments. If you do not designate anyone to receive the benefit, then the benefit will be paid in full to the first person in the following order of precedence: surviving spouse; surviving children (in equal share if there is no surviving spouse); surviving parents, the duly-appointed executor or administrator of your estate, and other next-of-kin.