Get Educated, Get Prepared, Get Your Benefits

Living in hurricane and earthquake-prone areas, I know that there things I can do to get my family prepared and through the trouble if it hits. For earthquakes, we always have shoes under our beds in case an earthquake hits. Stepping on broken glass during our escape only makes a bad situation worse. With preparedness in mind, Once a Soldier has put together this overview of the Survivor’s Guide to your Benefits from the Department of Defense. It is current as of July 2015.

First off, here’s the link to the Department of Defense’s guide for you to view and download. It is 37 pages long and is loaded with useful information. Digitally store it in a place that is readily accessible on your desktop or somewhere you can get at it without a log-in or too many clicks. Storing it on the cloud is a great idea. Either way, having it just out of eye shot but a click away will be important when the storm hits.

Second, here are some terms and key elements of the Survivor’s Guide to Your Benefits that appear in the guide which you more than likely are familiar with, but it never hurts to refresh your memory:

Casualty Assistance Officer: This is the person to whom you should address your questions, as he or she will be your primary connection to the Department of Defense. The different branches of service have different titles for this person. Find out who currently holds this position and get their contact information. Once you have been notified of your loved one’s death, THEY WILL CALL YOU to arrange a visit. If you don’t get this call within 24 hours, call them.

Months after the death of your loved one, if issues or questions arise, your Casualty Assistance Officer is still your first call.

Army
Casualty assistance officer
Marine Corps
Casualty assistance calls officer
Navy
Casualty assistance calls officer
Air Force
Casualty assistance representative
Coast Guard
Casualty assistance calls officer

A Soldier Suicide Survivor’s Guide to Your Benefits Definitions

Death Gratuity: the death gratuity is a lump sum payment made by the Department of Defense to the survivors or other individuals identified by the service member prior to his or her death.

Death Gratuity amount:  The amount of death gratuity is $100,000 and is tax exempt.

Burial benefits -Travel entitlements: The Department of Defense will care for, transport and inter your loved one. The surviving spouse, children and siblings of the service member, as well as the parents of both the service member and surviving spouse are authorized to receive travel entitlements.

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SLGI coverage): Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance is a program of low-cost group life insurance for service members on active duty, ready reservists, members of the National Guard, members of the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service, cadets and midshipmen of the four service academies and members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

SLGI Coverage Amounts: The maximum amount of SGLI coverage is $400,000. The SGLI coverage is available in increments of $50,000.

Forgiveness of a decedent’s tax liability: Tax liability can be forgiven, or refunded if already paid, if a service member dies under any of the following circumstances:

• While on active duty in a combat zone
• From wounds, disease or other injury received in a combat zone
• From wounds or injury incurred in a terrorist or military action

To go digital with the current status of your benefits, there is an Online Survivor Benefits Report.  This is a DoD self-service logon premium account — or DS logon premium account — that will provide you access to an interactive online survivor benefits report. This report can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Links are provided in the PDF.

Finally, take notice that there are other benefits covered in the Survivor’s Guide to Your Benefits. Educational benefits like scholarships, financial counseling services, VA home loans and more are included.

Getting ready to the inevitable is part of loving your family and protecting their future. Do it now instead of in the time of crisis when time is short, your mind is cluttered and your emotions are raw.

Once a Soldier provides financial support for the survivors of soldier suicide. 100% of your gift will ease or erase their financial and emotional burden. Please donate and get a free t-shirt or mug as our thank you gift.

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Jamie Brunette

Veteran suicide comes from all parts of the military. Learn more about how to stop it, PTSD therapies and more. Send us an email at team@onceasoldier.org.