If you are the survivor of a servicemember or veteran, we are sorry for your loss.
Your eligibility for benefits through the Department of Defense (DOD) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will depend on their status as an active duty servicemember, veteran, or retiree at the time of their death. As a Veterans Service Organization (VSO), Navy Mutual’s representatives are authorized to assist survivors with applications for survivor benefits and programs offered through the different branches of the VA. Navy Mutual provides these services to all survivors free of charge.
Survivor Benefits at a Glance:
Department of Defense
Department of Defense (DOD) benefits include:
- A Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO), assigned to survivors of an active duty death to act as their liaison with their branch of service.
- The military death gratuity, a one-time, tax-free $100,000 payment made to the designated beneficiary of active duty servicemembers, reservists, or ROTC members who die while on active duty (including within 120 days of separation), training, or authorized travel.
- The Survivor Benefit Plan, which is available to all active duty servicemembers free of charge and to veterans who opt in upon retirement and pay premiums.
- TRICARE, which will continue to cover family members after an active duty or retired servicemember passes away (until a surviving spouse remarries or a child loses eligibility due to age).
Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits include:
- The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA), available to qualifying surviving spouses and children of veterans with service-connected disabilities or of certain deceased veterans who do not qualify for TRICARE.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), a tax-free benefit paid to eligible survivors of servicemembers who died in the line of duty or of veterans who died as a result of a service-related injury or illness, or who had a 100% permanent and total disability rating for a qualifying amount of time.
- Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance, educational benefits that are available to spouses and children of veterans and servicemembers who have died on active duty, been captured, gone mission, or become 100% permanent and totally disabled due to a service-connected condition.
- The VA Survivors Pension, available to surviving spouses and dependent children of decreased veterans who meet certain service criteria as well as income and net worth requirements.
Department of Defense Benefits
DOD benefits may be available to survivors of active duty deaths and, in some cases, to survivors of retired servicemembers.
Casualty Assistance Calls Officer
Survivors of a U.S. servicemember who dies on active duty are assigned a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) to serve as their liaison with their branch of service. While not a subject matter expert, the CACO is trained to answer general questions, help survivors coordinate funeral arrangements, and help survivors apply for benefits and entitlements.
At Navy Mutual, we will continue to assist survivors regardless of whether or not the servicemember dies on active duty. Our educators and VSO representatives can act as a liaison between survivors and the VA, VBA, and NCA. In the event of a casualty, you may find this Survivor Checklist helpful.
The death gratuity is a $100,000 payment that is made to the named beneficiary of a servicemember who dies while on active duty or while in an eligible reserve status. The death gratuity is also payable if an eligible servicemember or veteran dies within 120 days of release or discharge from active duty, or active duty for training when the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines that their death resulted from an injury or disease incurred or aggravated during such duty.
It is paid out as one tax-free, lump-sum payment and is intended to offset immediate costs resulting from the death. A servicemember can designate up to 10 beneficiaries to receive a portion of the death gratuity in 10% increments.
Read more about the military death gratuity.
If the servicemember has not otherwise designated their beneficiaries, the death gratuity is paid in full to the first person or people who fit one of the descriptions below:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving child(ren)
- Surviving parents, or a survivor of surviving parents
- The executor of the deceased’s estate
- The other next of kin as described under the laws of domicile of the deceased at their time of death
The death gratuity is payable to survivors of servicemembers:
- On active duty, or
- In a reserve status while performing authorized travel to or from active duty, or
- In a reserve status on inactive duty training, or
- Performing authorized travel directly to or from active duty for training or inactive duty training, or
- In Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) programs performing annual training duty under orders for a period of more than 13 days or performing authorized travel for said duty, or
- Within 120 days or release or discharge from active duty or active duty for training if the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines their death to be service-connected.
Survivor Benefit Plan
The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is a government-backed, monthly income annuity that is automatically provided to eligible beneficiaries when a servicemember dies on active duty. The value of the benefit is based on the servicemember’s years of service and paygrade at the time of their death. Military retirees may participate in the SBP program provide they opt in by midnight on their last day of active duty and pay applicable premiums. This provides retirees a way to preserve part of their monthly pension for an eligible beneficiary after they pass away.
Read more about the Survivor Benefit Plan.
- SBP provides a monthly annuity, increasing annually with cost-of-living adjustments.
- SBP payments to beneficiaries are dependent on the base amount chosen. SBP can be based on the full amount of a retiree’s monthly retirement pay or on a reduced base amount (as low as $300).
- Monthly benefit payments to beneficiary are calculated at 55% of the elected base amount and are protected against inflation with regular cost-of-living adjustments.
- Beneficiary options include: Spouse Only, Child(ren) Only, Spouse and Child(ren), Former Spouse, Former Spouse and Child(ren), and Insurable Interest.
- For Spouse Only coverage, the SBP premium cost for the retiree is typically 6.5% of base amount elected.
- The cost of child coverage depends on whether the child is the primary beneficiary (Child Only coverage) or the secondary beneficiary (Spouse and Child coverage), and is based on the ages of the retiree, spouse, and youngest child, but is generally less than $20 per month.
- Premiums are paid with pre-tax dollars
- Participation is paid up after the retiree completes 30 years of payment and attains age 70.
- Premium payments stop:
- When the retiree’s children are no longer eligible, which occurs on their 18th birthday (or age 22 if a student). Note that a disabled child may be eligible for life.
- If the retiree loses their spouse through death or divorce.
- Upon death of the retiree.
- If the retiree elects to opt out of SBP between the second and third anniversary following the date the veteran began to receive retired pay.
TRICARE will continue to cover spouses as “active duty family members” for three years after an active duty servicemember passes away. After three years, a surviving spouse’s status changes to that of a “retired family member” and the health care insurance options available to them change as well. Children are covered as “active duty family members” until they age out of TRICARE entirely or otherwise lose their eligibility. The surviving spouse of a retired servicemember maintains their eligibility for TRICARE until they remarry, while again, surviving children maintain eligibility until they age out of TRICARE or otherwise lose eligibility.
If a National Guard or Reserve servicemember passes away, their survivors’ access to TRICARE depends on the servicemember’s military status at the time of their death. Survivors qualify for medical and dental benefits provided the servicemember passed away while serving on active duty or after retiring from the National Guard or Reserves. Survivors who were covered by TRICARE Reserve Select on the day of the servicemember’s death may qualify for six additional months of coverage. If the servicemember was covered by the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP) at the time of their death, their survivors may remain covered by TAMP for the remainder of the 180-day TAMP duration.
Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits
The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) provides health care benefits to the spouses, widowers, and children of certain veterans. Individuals who are eligible for TRICARE benefits are not eligible for CHAMPVA.
CHAMPVA covers medically necessary services and supplies that are provided by an authorized medical professional who is performing services within the scope of their credentials. These may include ambulance services, ambulatory services, durable medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen equipment, etc.), family planning services, maternity care, hospice care, inpatient and outpatient services, mental health services, pharmacy services and prescription medications, skilled nursing care, and transplants.
Read more about CHAMPVA.
CHAMPVA pays an allowable amount for each service, minus a deductible and the patient’s portion of cost sharing up to the maximum annual limit, for each covered participant.
- The deductible is $50 per beneficiary per year, or $100 per family per year.
- Each beneficiary is responsible for paying 25% of the allowable amount for each medical visit up to the annual limit of $3,000.
Participation is limited to:
- Spouses and dependent children of veterans who have been rated as permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability, or
- Surviving spouses and dependent children of veterans who died from a rated service-connected disability, or
- Surviving spouses and dependent children of veterans who were rated as permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability at their time of death, or
- Surviving spouses and dependent children of servicemembers who died in the line of duty and are not qualified to receive TRICARE benefits.
Applicants must fill out, sign, and submit VA Form 10-10d (Application for CHAMPVA Benefits). Individuals who have Medicare or other health insurance must also submit VA Form 10-7959c (CHAMPVA Other Health Insurance Certification).
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monthly benefit paid to the eligible survivors of servicemembers who died as a result of a service-related injury or illness or who were rated 100% permanently and totally disabled for a qualifying amount of time. DIC rates are protected against inflation with an annual cost-of-living adjustment. Eligible survivors must complete an application form and submit the requested supporting documents to the Department of Veterans Affairs or a local VA pension management center.
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) offers a monthly payment to children and spouses of servicemembers and veterans who have died, been captured, are missing in action, or are rated at 100% permanent and totally disabled as the result of service-connected disability. This payment can be used to help pay for costs associated with education or job training. Benefit payments last for up to 36 or 48 months.
Read more about DEA.
These monthly payments can help cover the costs associated with education received at colleges and universities, trade and vocational schools, on-the-job training, apprenticeships, correspondence training (spouses only), and for special restorative training (children only). The amount of each monthly payment depends on what type of education you are receiving and whether the program is considered to be full time. Special restorative training or special vocational training may be approved if a child of a qualifying servicemember or veteran has a physical or mental disability that prevents them from working toward their educational goals.
VA Survivors Pension
The VA Survivors Pension is a benefit offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to eligible surviving spouses and dependent children of deceased veterans. To qualify for the VA Survivors Pension, survivors must meet income and net worth requirements, the limits of which are determined by Congress. If your net worth is higher than this limit, you are not eligible for the VA Survivors Pension.
A survivor may be eligible for both Dependency and Indemnity Compensation and VA Survivors Pension. The VA will not pay both; they will pay the higher of the two amounts, which is almost always DIC.
Read more: What Is the VA Survivors Pension?
Navy Mutual’s Education and Veterans Services team can help servicemembers, veterans, and their families with matters related to financial education, veterans services, and survivor benefits.
Navy Mutual Aid Association’s Department of Education and Veteran Services does not endorse or favor any commercial financial product or service or promote the services of any specific financial institution. Further, Navy Mutual Aid Association and its accredited VSO Representatives do not charge or accept a fee or gratuity for representation services rendered to claimants before the Department of Veterans Affairs. 38 C.F.R. §14.628.