If you are the survivor of a military retiree, we are sorry for your loss. To help you through this difficult time, we have created a list of notifications that need to be made promptly after a retiree’s death.
Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS)
A military retiree collects pay for the duration of their life, but when their life ends, those payments cease. To prevent overpayment and the need for survivors to repay any retirement pay received beyond a retiree’s death, the retiree’s death must be reported promptly to Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) if the retiree was a member of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Space Force.
The Casualty Care Team can be reached by phone at 800-321-1080. DFAS also has an online form that is continuously available. Once notified of the death, DFAS will send a condolence package to the retiree’s survivors. It may include a Claim for Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Member of the Uniformed Service form or an Annuity Care Package (if the retiree was enrolled in the Survivor Benefit Plan or the Retired Serviceman’s Family Protection Plan).
The Claim for Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Member of the Uniformed Service form (SF 1174) allows the survivor to collect the pro-rated amount of the retiree’s final month of retirement pay (based upon their date of death) and any other money that might be owed to the retiree at their time of death. A copy of the retiree’s death certificate must be submitted with this form.
The Annuity Care Package contains DD Form 2656-7, Verification for Survivor Annuity, which is the form required to initiate payments to a Survivor Benefit Plan or Retired Serviceman’s Family Protection Plan beneficiary. Depending on the beneficiary’s relationship to the veteran and the beneficiary’s age, the following documents may be required: a copy of the retiree’s death certificate, a citizenship affidavit for the beneficiary, a Custodianship Certificate of Minor Child, a Child Annuitant’s School Certification, and/or legal representative documentation.
U.S. Coast Guard Pay and Personnel Center
If the retiree was a member of the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or Public Health Service, their death must be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard Pay and Personnel Center. A representative can be reached by phone at 866-772-8724 or by email.
Survivors will be required to provide the retiree’s name and Social Security number; the date, cause, and location of death; and the type and location of burial. If available, a copy of the death certificate must also be provided. Any payments made to the retiree and received after their death must be returned for processing.
Upon notification of death of the retiree, survivors can expect to receive forms allowing them to claim any unpaid pay; they can also apply to receive an annuity if the retiree was participating in the Retired Serviceman’s Family Protection Plan or Survivor Benefit Plan. The U.S. Coast Guard Pay and Personnel Center also maintains a Survivor Guide with information and instructions for survivors of retirees.
Department of Veterans Affairs
If the retiree was receiving disability compensation, their death needs to be reported to the VA to avoid overpayment. This will prevent any additional payments being made and save survivors from having to return money to the VA.
The quickest way to notify the VA of a retiree’s death is by phone: 800-827-1000. Representatives are available from Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET. Reports can also be made in person at a VA regional office or by mail. Representatives will need to confirm the retiree’s identity – typically the VA asks for the retiree’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, date of death, and branch of service. Having a death certificate available can make reporting the death simpler.
Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
DEERS tracks military members’ and dependents’ eligibility for benefits. Survivors of a retiree should report their sponsor’s death to DEERS by visiting the nearest military ID card issuing facility or calling DEERS Support at 800-538-9552. Surviving spouses of retirees – and their eligible children – are able to maintain their military ID cards.
Social Security Administration
In many cases, the funeral home that handles a retiree’s burial will report their death to the Social Security Administration. However, a survivor can also make that notification by calling 800-772-1213 – representatives are available Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
There may be monetary benefits available for survivors. Survivors must apply for these benefits and can request an appointment with a Social Security specialist to complete the process.
Surviving spouses are eligible for a one-time death benefit payment of $255. If there is no spouse among the survivors, this payment may be made to an eligible child.
The retiree’s Social Security credits may qualify their survivors for monthly benefits. Surviving spouses and unmarried, dependent children are frequently eligible, but stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, adopted children, and dependent parents may also qualify.
If the retiree was receiving Social Security benefits at the time of their death, any payments received during the month of their death or after their death must be returned to the Social Security Administration.
If the retiree was insured under a life insurance policy, the policy’s beneficiary must initiate a claim in order to receive their payment. The process for doing so varies by insurer, but typically, the beneficiary must fill out a form asking for payment and submit supporting documentation, including the retiree’s death certificate.
If the retiree had Veterans’ Group Life Insurance, their death must be reported to the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance. To initiate a claim, a survivor must submit Form SGLV 8283 and the retiree’s death certificate.
If the retiree had VA Life, claims can be filed online with the Department of Veterans Affairs or mailed in via U.S. Postal Service. In addition to the requested claim form, the death certificate of the retiree must also be provided.
Survivors of retirees who had Navy Mutual policies can report a death online or by calling 800-628-6011. Provided the policy is in good standing, Navy Mutual may release 10% of the death benefit up to $10,000 for immediate use after notification of the insured’s death.
Other notifications will need to be made for various entities, including banks, credit card companies, property and liability insurance companies, employers, and more.
Survivors may want to reach out to their local Casualty Assistance Center for help coordinating the retiree’s memorial services – representatives there can schedule military funeral honors. The VA may also offer a small monetary allowance to help cover burial costs. As a Veterans Service Organization, Navy Mutual can help survivors understand and apply for various entitlements and benefits.
Our Education and Veterans Services team can help survivors navigate the VA and explain the military survivor benefits to which they may be entitled as a result of their loved one’s service. The team can be reached at 888-298-4442.