Death Gratuity

Usually paid within a few days of the member's death, the death gratuity is intended to assist the survivors in their readjustment and to aid them in meeting immediate expenses. In 2006, the death gratuity was permanently increased from $12,420 to $100,000 for all active duty deaths resulting from wounds, injuries, or illnesses that are incurred in the line of duty, not just those occurring in combat-related situations. This payment is not taxable. In January 2008, service members were also allowed to designate a person other than the primary next of kin (PNOK) to receive up to 100 % of the death gratuity in 10 % increments. For example, the service member may choose to designate 40% of the death gratuity to a parent and 10% to a sibling. The balance of the payment (50%) would be made to the PNOK. It also requires a spouse to be officially notified if a service member chooses to designate a person other than the spouse.

The death gratuity is NOT an insurance policy, but should serve as a bridge between the death of a service member and the start of survivor benefits. Benefits, such as the death gratuity, do not replace the need to do proper estate planning and to prepare guardianship agreements for minor children. 

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