The Department of Defense (DoD) will process, transport, and inter remains. It provides a casket, vault and headstone for interment in a government cemetery or may reimburse costs of up to $8,800 if the family elects to make private arrangements. Transportation for the immediate family to the burial is provided by the government at no charge, or may be reimbursed up to the government rate. The casualty assistance officer will guide the family through the specific requirements and paperwork for the particular branch of Service involved. More information is available on the Military Funeral Honors website.
Surviving families may occupy government quarters or be paid housing allowances for 365 days. Those eligible for Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) will be paid in one lump sum. If living on the installation, the family will need to pay the housing allowance to the housing contractor. Congress has authorized continued payment of the deceased member’s housing allowance at the without-dependents rate for up to one year to a survivor who is also a service member. Survivors are also authorized one relocation move at government expense which must be completed within one year following the death of the service member.
Currently-enrolled students in Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS) who are children of a fallen military member may continue in DDESS schools without limitation, regardless of their physical residence or upcoming school transition points, according to DDESS policies. The student's family will have to assume responsibility for transportation. There is a separate policy for children enrolled in Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS). This policy allows the children of deceased active duty military members to be able to enroll in DoDDS schools on a space available, tuition-free basis.
Spouses are eligible for Commissary, Exchange, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities privileges indefinitely, unless they remarry. Children maintain eligibility until age 18, or 23 if enrolled full-time in college.
The Survivor’s Guide to Benefits contains a complete listing of other benefits available for survivors.
Each of the Services may have Service specific benefits, such as the Army’s Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) program and the Navy Gold Star program. SOS is an Army-wide program that provides dedicated and comprehensive support services to survivors of deceased Soldiers. Navy Gold Star program is the Navy’s official program for providing long-term support to surviving families of Sailors who pass while on Active Duty. Survivors should check with their Casualty Assistance Officer for a list of these specific services.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) publishes an annual booklet called "Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents" with up-to-date dollar amounts for each benefit and a more in-depth explanation of all VA benefits for surviving family members. It is also available on the VA website. You can also request a copy from the Department of Veterans Affairs by calling their local office. The phone number for the local VA office may be found in the blue pages of your local phone book under U.S. Government Offices.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
Surviving spouses, children, and some dependent parents are eligible to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), a monthly flat-rate payment of a base amount determined periodically by specific Congressional action and not based on the pay grade of the service member. The rate has been adjusted annually for cost of living increases. The DIC payment is non-taxable. The DIC monthly spouse rate is $ 1,254.19 effective December 2014. Additional amounts, also adjusted annually, are authorized for a surviving spouse with minor children. The current monthly benefit is $ 310.71 for each child. Unmarried children are eligible for the benefit until they reach the age of 18 (19 if still in secondary school), between 18 and 23 if attending a VA approved institution of higher learning, or for life if they are disabled. Children of a deceased member who had no spouse at the time of death receive a different monthly benefit. For more specific information contact your local VA office or access the VA website. It is important to remember that DIC benefits, as with all benefits, will not be paid unless you apply for them.
If a spouse remarries before age 57, payment of the spouse DIC ends. If that subsequent marriage ends in death, divorce, or annulment, DIC will be re-instated. Payment of the children's DIC is not affected by a change in the marital status of the surviving spouse.
Surviving spouses and children are eligible for up to 45 months of education benefits under the VA's Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program. Education benefits may be used in pursuit of associate, bachelor, or graduate degrees; courses leading to a certificate or diploma from business, technical or vocational schools; apprenticeships and various other educational programs. Benefits may also be paid to a child over age 14 with a physical or mental disability that impairs the pursuit of a regular education program for special restorative training to lessen or overcome the impairment.
The surviving spouse of a service member killed on active duty has an extended eligibility for DEA benefits of up to 20 years after the date of the member's death. Surviving spouses of military retirees or veterans who die of service-connected causes have 10 years after the member's death to use their education benefits. Children are normally eligible to receive educational benefits between their 18th and 26th birthdays. The current monthly education benefit is $1,018 a month per recipient for full time attendance at an educational facility. The most recent rate information is available on VA website.
Fry Scholarship for Children
Children of active duty service members who died on active duty since September 11, 2001 are eligible for the "Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry" Scholarship, included in the final 2009 Supplemental Appropriations bill. The scholarship expands the current GI Bill education benefit to cover the full cost of a college education for all children of fallen service members. In a recent change, children now have to make an irrevocable election of either the VA Dependents Education Allowance(DEA) or the Fry Scholarship for terms beginning on or after January 1, 2015.
How the Fry Scholarship Changes GI Bill Benefits for Children:
- Amends GI Bill, so that children of active duty service members who have died on active duty since 9-11-01 qualify for the education benefit
- The full benefit is extended to each dependent child and does not impose a minimum service requirement to qualify
- All children of fallen service members are eligible to receive the maximum benefit under GI Bill immediately
- Benefit expires 15 years after the 18th birthday of surviving military children
Fry Scholarship for Spouses
In August of 2014, the Fry Scholarship was extended to eligible surviving spouses of active duty service members who died on active duty since September 11, 2001 through the passage of the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. This requires that the VA allow certain surviving spouses to take advantage of educational benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Prior to this Act, only children of those who died in the line of duty were eligible for this benefit.
How the Fry Scholarship Changes GI Bill Benefits for Spouses:
- Entitles eligible spouses to up to 36 months of the full, 100-percent level of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes a tuition-and-fee payment, a monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies.
- Unremarried surviving spouses are eligible to use the scholarship up to 15 years after the date of death of their service member.
- Spouses do have to make an irrevocable election of either the VA Dependents Education Allowance(DEA) or the Fry Scholarship for terms beginning on or after January 1, 2015.
See the VA fact sheet for more information on the benefit and how to apply.
Additional Support for Surviving Spouses
Spouses of deceased military personnel may be entitled to a preference when applying for federal civilian jobs. Be sure to inquire with the Human Resource Office when applying for federal civilian jobs.
Additional benefits may be available at the state and community level. Veteran Service Offices at the county level are also very helpful in understanding and applying for VA benefits.