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What to Do When a Military Member Dies

“Death never takes the wise man by surprise; he is always ready to go.” Jean de La Fontaine, 1651

Hello, your Surviving Spouse Liaison here to discuss an important subject this month.  Death is a fundamental component of the human condition, and an experience we will all one day share.  But, for many, it can also be an uncomfortable and even taboo subject.  Talking about and planning for death may feel uncomfortable at first, but it can ease your anxiety about the future and provide clarity as you determine what’s important to you. Most importantly, it helps you protect and provide for the people you love – especially Surviving Spouses.

At this time, I am still working with the DOD to resolve Retirement pay for my loved one who has passed away.  My Father-in-law passed away one year ago, and I believe it is important for people to be aware that a delay in reporting, or not understanding the process can create issues that last for an extended period of time.  There are immediate steps to take to avoid overpayment of benefits to your loved one upon their passing.  From experience I can tell you that the process of DOD rescinding payments can be stressful and confusing, so it is necessary to notify the DOD as soon as possible even in the moments of grief.

To report the death of a military retiree: Step 1 - Notify the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Casualty Care Team at 1-800-321-1080.  DFAS has highly trained people waiting to assist you every step of the way.  When calling please have:

  • Member’s Social Security Number and the
  • Date of death

After they halt payment, DFAS will send out a packet for the surviving spouse or dependent to request survivor benefits payments. This packet will include:

  • DD Form 2656-7
  • Standard Form 1174
  • FMS Form 2231
  • Form W-4 or W4-P

Be sure to include a copy of the military member’s death certificate.

Once you have completed these forms, return them to:

Defense Finance and Accounting Service U.S. Military Annuitant Pay
8899 E. 56th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46249-1300

It is also important to know what benefits are available to you as a Surviving Spouse and for your loved one.

What is the death benefit for military retirees?  The Survivor Benefit Plan is a Department of Defense sponsored and subsidized program that provides up to 55 percent of a service member's retired pay to an eligible beneficiary upon the death of the member.

Make Funeral Arrangements (Work with your funeral home):

National Cemetery Option (casket and cremated remains)

Veterans who die on active duty, or with discharges that are other than dishonorable, are entitled by law to a grave site in any national cemetery with available space. Burial benefits available include a grave site in the national cemetery, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, columbarium niches for cremation remains, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.  Each of these benefits are at no cost to the family.

A Veteran's spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.

National Cemeteries

The VA's National Cemetery Administration maintains 135 national cemeteries in 40 states (and Puerto Rico) as well as 33 Soldier's lots and monument sites. There are nine national cemeteries in California, of which five are presently accepting new interments:

Bakersfield National Cemetery

Miramar National Cemetery

Riverside National Cemetery

Sacramento Valley National Cemetery

San Joaquin National Cemetery

The other national cemeteries in California are only accepting burials of family members of persons already interred, or if space becomes available due to disinterment from an existing gravesite.

Please see the following website for more detailed information.

If you need assistance or require more information on these topics, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Diane Acquistapace
Surviving Spouse Liaison

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