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Military Survivor Benefits: Make Sure You're Not Left Out


As Benjamin Franklin once noted, death is one of the only certainties in life. Despite this common knowledge, people are often overwhelmed by all the processes that follow a loved one's passing. These procedures are especially complex for military families, in part because of the entitled benefits they must claim from multiple government agencies.

Avoid future stress and act NOW. Make sure that your AAFMAA Member Center profile is completely up to date. All information should be current. Have all your official forms and documents in one, central place so that your family members can retrieve everything they need to claim insurance payouts, and government entitlements and benefits.

To give you an idea of why it is so important to consolidate all these documents:

Government agencies will require specific completed forms and the aforementioned essential documents in order to process survivor benefits and entitlements. These crucial documents include:

  • DD-214
  • Marriage Certificate(s)
  • Divorce Degree(s), if applicable
  • Award Letters from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • Certified Death Certificate(s), and;
  • Itemized funeral home invoices reflecting that they have been paid in full

To issue their own payouts, life insurance and annuity companies will require:

  • Beneficiary Social Security numbers, dates of birth and contact information
  • If the beneficiary is a trust company, you may need to provide trust documents such as the title page, pages naming trustees, signature pages, any full amendments, and the trust tax ID number. Some insurance companies will request a copy of the original certificate of insurance.
  • Copy or Certified Death Certificate

When the time comes, your survivor should contact a funeral home. The funeral home should then notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of the death. Still, we do recommend that your surviving spouse visit their local SSA office to ensure they receive the maximum benefit.

Also, when this day arrives, your spouse will report the death to our AAFMAA Survivor Benefits Team, either by phone or through our online reporting system. We will inform most of the government agencies, insurance companies and associations of your loved one's death so that they will follow through with appropriate payouts. These agencies include Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) and the VA.

Below are two of the main agencies we communicate with on a survivor's behalf, along with the roles these agencies play in the distribution of benefits and other entitlements to survivors of servicemembers:

Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS)

  • Stop the servicemember's retired pay
  • Apply for the prorated retired pay, known as Arrears of Pay
  • Start Survivor Benefit Annuity
  • Update Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) for Military ID and TRICARE benefits

Veterans Administration (VA)

  • Stop VA Disability Compensation
  • Apply for VA Burial Allowances
  • Apply for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for surviving spouse, if eligible

Although death is not an easy thing to think about, that's exactly why you should take time now to help your loved ones prepare now for the day you won't be here. Download our Military Survivor Checklist to ensure they are prepared for steps they will need to take to claim the benefits you've earned through your military service. If you are an AAFMAA Member, your survivors will receive full, personal assistance from our Survivor Assistance Services (SAS) team when the time comes. Visit the SAS section of the AAFMAA Member Center to download the Member version of our Military Survivor Checklist, which will inform you and your loved ones of all of the steps we will take on your behalf.

For more information on Survivor Assistance Services, please contact Survivor Benefits directly by phone at 888-961-4432 or by email at [email protected]. Visit the Survivor Assistance page to learn more.

This article was originally published July 20, 2017.