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AAFMAA Blog

Top 3 things your family should know about your VA benefits

2015-03-17

No one likes to spend time talking about the possibility of their own death. Much less planning for it with their family. Adding the complexity of understanding how your military benefits factor in makes it even worse. But at some point, you have to have the conversation — no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

Fortunately, AAFMAA can help you and your family navigate your military benefits now, and be better-prepared when the time comes that your family needs us most. To get started, you should make sure that your family knows the following three things about your military benefits.

  1. 1.) There is a lot to know

    There are a wide variety of financial benefits and services for survivors of veterans who die because of a service-connected reason. Please note, each of these programs has specific eligibility requirements and should be fully researched.

    • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary benefit for qualified survivors of service members who died in the line of duty or as a result of a service-related injury or disease
    • Survivors pension or death pension is a tax-free monetary benefit for qualified low-income, un-remarried surviving spouses and/or unmarried children of a deceased veteran with wartime service
    • GI Bill Programs:
      • Fry Scholarship is available to children and surviving spouses of those who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001
      • Survivors’ Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans
    • VA Home Loans
    • Burial or inurnment and gravesite benefits
    • VA also provides a variety of counseling services:
      • Financial counseling and will preparation
      • Educational and vocational
      • Fiduciary service
    • Other benefits include:
      • Civil Service Employment Preference
      • Commissary and Exchange Privileges
  2. 2.) The rules can be complex

    When a servicemember dies, in order for the family to claim VA survivor benefits, their death certificate must adequately list the cause of death as related to a service-connected disability. Here is an example: An elderly veteran drives off the road, crashes into a tree, and dies. The police assume that the cause of death is accidental. “He hit a patch of ice, lost control of the car, and died from impact.” Fortunately, they were AAFMAA members, and our Survivor Assistance Team recommended that the family conduct an autopsy. This revealed that prior to the crash, the veteran had a seizure caused by a service-connected disability. That was listed as the cause of death on the death certificate and the VA subsequently granted benefits to the surviving spouse and dependents.

  3. 3.) Call AAFMAA first, we’re here to help

    Your family members do not have to do this alone. You can rest easy knowing that AAFMAA’s unique Survivor Assistance experts stand ready to take care of them when the time comes — and for the rest of their lives. Servicemembers join AAFMAA because they know that our Survivor Assistance Team will treat their loved ones with care, compassion and respect after they’re gone.

    AAFMAA helps your family when they need it most by taking immediate action:

    • Notifying VA and DFAS of your passing, so they don’t have to
    • Assisting them with all necessary forms and applications — we know exactly how to fill them out
    • Initiating their AAFMAA life insurance claim and discussing all settlement options
  • Beyond having the conversation

    Below are some actions that YOU should take to ensure we have what we need to provide the best-possible service to your family:

    • Keep your personal and family information up-to-date in the AAFMAA Member Center
    • Keep your beneficiary designation current
    • Ensure your loved ones know where to locate your important records — better yet, store them with AAFMAA!
    • Tell your loved ones to call AAFMAA first when the time comes

    Contact AAFMAA Member Benefits or Survivor Assistance Services at 1-800-522-5221 for more information about your particular situation and how we might be able to help.