Losing a family member in their active duty in the military is always hard.

Having someone lose their life because they fought for something bigger than themselves while protecting the people and the country, they love is worth only admiration and calling that person a hero.

No one really ever wants to have to google which benefits do the military family members get when a death on active duty occurs.

While this is a very serious and complicated topic, today we’ve prepared for you an overview of everything you need to know if you find yourself in this situation.

If you are a family member who is going through this process you need all the assistance you can get, and we’re here to do just that.

We’re here to give you concrete information about what you can expect from the military in this case. It’s comforting to know that the military has plans for these types of situations.

These plans have in mind helping children, spouses and other family members get on their feet financially.

When we take everything into consideration, the value of the benefits will more than likely exceed the amount of $500,000.

While this seems like a very high figure, to be honest, it’s the least that can be done for those who’ve sacrificed something precious for a great cause.

Let’s take a look together at all the information we’ve gathered for you below.


When a member of a family dies while serving on active duty, in transportation or in training, their family has the right to certain benefits, entitlements and privileges.

One this happens, every family who goes through this gets and assigned CAR (Casualty Assistance Representative).

Their purpose is to help you will all the questions you might have regarding the possible benefits and privileges.

If they don’t have the answers you need and they can’t get it for you, they will point you to the right military official or government agency.

In the following part of this article you will find the benefits available for family members who have lost a loved one in the military.

These benefits mentioned on the list also include unfortunate deaths which can occur while a service member is being transported to the place of duty.

Some benefits are also valid for situations where a service member dies from non-service-related issues, after he or she has been disabled by service-related issues.

Also, we would point out that some benefits can also be valid for families of veterans who have died from service-related diseases or injuries. Let’s take a look at all the benefits.

i. Unpaid Leave and Back Pay

This is one of the most known benefits.

Every survivor will, of course, receive all owed back pay as well as any payment that might be owed for a leave that hasn’t been taken.

Unpaid pay can include:

  1. Payment for up to 60 days of accrued leave
  2. Transport for family members
  3. Amounts due for travel
  4. Shipping of household goods, etc.

When there isn’t a written designation by the deceased service member, the money will be paid out to the first eligible recipient in the following order:

  1. Their lawful living spouse
  2. If the is no spouse, to their children and descendants of deceased children
  3. If none of the above, to their parents in equal shares or to the only surviving parent
  4. In there are no parents, to their legal representative of their estate
  5. If none of the above, to the persons(s) entitled under the laws of the state in which the service member was domiciled.

ii. Group Life Insurance Payment for Service Members

Automatically all service members are insured in this program. Unless they reduced the benefits in writing or canceled it for any reason, they are insured for up to $400,000.

As for the payout methods, the amount of the benefit can be paid out to family members in 36 separate installments or all at once.

This decision is made by the service member once they have enrolled in the program.

iii. Paying for Death Gratuity

The purpose of this benefit is to immediately assist the family with urgent concerns that might occur.

During the first 72 hours of the death of an active duty service member, a $100,000 benefit will be paid out to the members of the family.

The service member decides who will receive this amount of money by filling out a form. We emphasize that this sum that we’ve mentioned is not taxed.

Death gratuity is paid out to the survivors in this order:

  1. The serving member’s lawful living spouse. Payment is delivered within 24 hours of death unless the wife states other desires.
  2. If there is no spouse, the payment is delivered to all the children the member has. Regardless of their age, the payment is divided into equal shares.
  3. If none of the above, the payment is delivered to any combination stated by the deceased service member. It could go to their parents, to their brothers or sisters, or to someone else entirely.

iv. Payment for Funeral and Burial Costs

The amount of money needed to cover all costs for preparation, burial and interment depend on whether the family chooses a private cemetery or the military handles the arrangements.

Generally speaking, these costs can go from $1000 up to $9000.

Travel costs for family members will immediately be covered of course.

Veterans who have died in service-related issues receive up to $2000 in burial and funeral benefits. These people are also eligible for free burial in a VA cemetery.

v. Monetary Benefits

Family members are eligible to receive different types of monetary benefits whenever their family member dies as a result of service during peacetime and wartime.

In every case, benefits are paid to their children and spouse, regardless of their economic need (except when there is a case of nonservice-connected death pension).

If parents of the deceased have an excess income every year, they might not get the benefits.

You can find out which monetary benefits you are eligible for and how to apply for them by talking to your Casualty Assistance Representative or by going to your closest Social Security office or VA.

vi. SBP – Survivor Benefit Plan

The Survivor Benefit Plan provides a COLA-adjusted monthly income based on the percentage of the pay of service members whose death was service-related. In the next part of the article, we cover the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) which influences the SBP.

If the spouse receives payments from DIC, that amount will be subtracted from the SBP payment.

Because of this, some spouses prefer opting out of receiving income through SBP and transfer the entire benefit to their kids, since they are not affected by DIC also.

vii. DIC – Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

The spouse and every child of the service member receive COLA-adjusted flat-rate payments under DIC. Payments for children can be extended for up to 23 years if that child goes to college.

This helps empower these kids to strive for academic degrees and quality education.

As for payments for spouses, they continue for life.

The only way the wife stops being eligible for these payments is if she remarries before the age of 57.

If she marries after that, she is still eligible to be covered under DIC.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation can be paid out to:

  1. survivors of the active service member who died on active duty
  2. survivors of the active service member who died in training
  3. survivors of the active service member who died from service-related diseases or conditions
  4. survivors of the active service member who died from an injury
  5. survivors of veterans who died service-related
  6. survivors of veterans who were disabled by military service at the time of their deaths

One important thing to mention here is that if the spouse of the service member is also eligible for Survivors’ Benefit Plan benefits, the amount of those benefits will be reduced by the amount which is already paid out in DIC.

viii. Medical Care

In the following 3 years after the death of an active duty service member in the US military, his surviving family members (spouse and kids) are eligible for full-active health benefits for free.

After these 3 years pass, the children remain covered with the same benefits but on the other hand, spouses transition to Tricare.

ix. Housing Assistance

During the following 1 year after the death occurs, surviving family members keep the right for military housing from their service member’s BAH.

Also, another good benefit which the families have is that if they decided to move in anywhere in the 3 years after the date of death, their moving costs will be covered by the military.

x. Tax Liability Forgiveness

In the year following the death of an active service member in the US military, income taxes won’t have to be paid for that person. If the taxes are already paid, they will be forgiven.

Family members are free to consult with IRS guidelines and seek help with their taxes.

They can also go to their closest military installation and receive help with this matter as well.

xi. VA Home Loan Assistance

Although this benefit isn’t a monetary one, we will still mention here since it can be quite useful for spouses to know that they are eligible to apply for VA loans.

There are some unique benefits this product provides, like helping with building new homes or refinancing an existing VA mortgage.

xii. Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP)

When a Reserve Component member dies and has completed the satisfactory years of service and by that is qualified as a member for retired pay at 60 years old, there is a monthly annuity paid to the surviving spouse or children from the military.

The annuity paid is equal to 55% of the retired pay which the deceased member would receive at age 60, and then that sum is reduced by the Reserve Portion Cost.

The deceased member must have however, made an election within 90 days of being notified that he or she is eligible to take part in this program.

xiii. Exchange and Commissary Benefits

The surviving spouse and children of the passed active service member still keep the right to shop and exchanges and commissaries.

Children keep that right until they turn 21 and spouses keep that right permanently, unless they remarry.

xiv. Educational Benefits

One of the more useful benefits, although not being monetary, are the educational benefits the spouse and children are eligible for.

These benefits go from transferring GI Bill benefits and scholarships and programs, to covering up to 100% of all costs.


A death notification is a moment when a person is informed about someone’s death.

This notification is supposed to begin the grieving process for the person who is hearing the news.

This process was necessary ever since the human race started to evolve and form relationships with one another.

Even though the process has gone through certain changes (before, it was done by telegram and now by phone or in person if possible), it still is one of the most uncomfortable things to do in life.

The Military of the United States of America will withhold the name of the deceased service member until 24 hours have passed from letting the family members know.

There are usually a couple of people involved when the military goes to notify a family member:

  1. The notifying officer,
  2. The chaplain who accompanies the notifying officer and who might have a part in delivering the news,
  3. The medic who is there if the family member faints or feels ill,
  4. The officer who stays in the car and is there to help if the family member reacts violently.

The process of notifying has 3 steps:

  1. Logistical preparation and deciding who has which role (most importantly – who will do all the talking).
  2. Driving to the home, knocking on the door and saying: “I have been asked to inform you that your son has been reported dead in [city, state, country] at [time and date]. [Briefly state the circumstances.] On the behalf of the Secretary of Defense, I extend to you and your family my deepest sympathy in your great loss.”
  3. Leaving the situation once deemed that everything is under control.

Following U.S. Army customs, the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin of the deceased should be informed in the following couple of hours after learning about the death.

The notification should come between 6 AM and 10 PM.

Their motto is to never leave the person who is notified until they have someone else to hold onto to.


Many of these benefits need to be applied in order to receive them.

This is very important to keep in mind. When you suffer the loss of a family member, it can be very difficult to understand all of these benefits and possibilities entirely.

This is why the military assigns a Casualty Assistance Officer to every family who is in this situation. The role of this officer is to help the family sort everything out about these mentioned benefits.

If you want to have a deeper look at things like funeral and memorial services benefits, how you can use your Casualty Assistance Officer, different employment programs which are available and a list of all the important documents you are going to need, there is a great guide called “A Survivors’ Guide to Benefits“. Feel free to give it a look, it’s full of useful information.

If you want to learn more about the VA loan program, who is eligible for it, how the application process looks like and how you can use this program, feel free to check out these facts you should know and find concrete information right there.

Keep in mind that although this benefit is not monetary, it can prove to be quite useful for a lot of people.

As for finding further information about taxes and what benefits you can hope for if you’ve lost a family member during their active service, you can always consult with IRS guidelines.

The Armed Forces’ Tax Guide is full of content about this topic. It covers everything from gross income, over adjustments to income to credit options and extensions of deadlines.


To be honest, there is nothing that can comfort the loss of a family member, especially replace that loss with anything of equal value.

Still, it’s good to know that the military does what it can to help the families in these situations by providing them with good benefits.

Financial assistance is very helpful in these scenarios and the US military does all it can to provide as much as they can.

Hopefully, after going through this article you got the information you were looking for and you have a better idea of what kind of benefits you can expect to receive.

Remember, stay strong and don’t go through this process alone.

Reach out to institutions and officers for help, they will gladly assist you.

What Are Active Duty Death Benefits for US Military Family Members

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