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What to Do When a Veteran Dies

Getty Images / Stone / Zigy Kaluzny

A checklist to set up notifications, benefits, services, and grief support

When you’re grieving a loss, just the idea of paperwork may feel overwhelming. But when your partner was a member of the armed services, you know that needing signatures and signoffs is part of the process. To help you navigate this difficult time as smoothly as possible, here’s a checklist of what you have to do when a veteran passes away.

DO THIS FIRST: DEATH NOTIFICATIONS

Call the Department of Defense

Did you know that if your veteran retired from the Armed Services and is issued a retirement check in the last month of his or her death, you may be required to repay it?

The Department of Defense stops military retired pay on the day of a retiree’s death and re-calculates that month’s amount. If the check is already issued and you spend it, you’ll be required to refund the difference. To avoid this, notify the defense department immediately before you do anything else. The death notification can be done by phone at 800-321-1080. Be sure to have your veteran’s social security number and date of death ready when you call.

Another reason to start here if your veteran was an armed services retiree? During this call, the Department of Defense will begin the process of confirming and preparing paperwork for any retiree survivor benefits you’re getting.

Notify other agencies

Military retirees often qualify for services managed by many different federal, state, and nonprofit agencies. Many will need to know quickly of the death, in order to stop payments or initiate life insurance claims.

Not sure where to start? The Department of Defense maintains a list of federal agencies that often need timely notification of a death.


3 Reasons to Plan a Funeral in Advance


NEXT: ARRANGING THE SERVICE

Want a military funeral? Consider working with a funeral home

For many families, honoring their veteran’s military service in the funeral ceremony is important. The VA and the National Cemetery Administration offer several programs that assist families with the burial and service, such as a free casket flag, free headstone or marker, and interment in a VA cemetery. You can read more about your VA death benefits here.

A funeral home director can take care of arranging many of these details. Read more about how to choose a funeral home and get help with planning the funeral.

You’ll have a lot of documents to gather as you go through this process. Right now, a key one is your veteran’s DD-214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty), a Department of Defense document that identifies their discharge from service. Your funeral director may be able to help you obtain one, but you can request an expedited copy from the National Archives for funeral purposes.

Share the obituary with family and servicemates

One of the easiest ways to get word out about your veteran’s death and upcoming services is to publish an obituary and share it on social media. Not sure how to connect with your veteran’s military acquaintances? The National Archives maintains a comprehensive list of resources.

AFTER THE FUNERAL/SERVICE

Benefits application

With the details of the service behind you, now is the time to make sure your benefits claims are on track.

Department of Defense Retiree Benefits: You likely got this process started when you notified the Department of Defense about your veteran’s death. More information is available here.

Veterans Administration: The VA manages many programs that support survivors. A good place to start is by calling the VA Benefits Line at 800-827-1000. You can also get in-person help at your regional Veterans Benefits Administration Office.

VA-issued equipment returns

If your veteran was using VA issued equipment, like a bed, wheel chair, or prosthetics, your local VA hospital can come and get them. Call their Prosthetics Department to make these arrangements.

Grief support

You are not alone. Here are some places to connect with others who understand what it’s like to lose a veteran:

Legacy’s Loss of a Veteran online grief support group. This private Facebook group offers a place for the sharing of personal stories, ideas and helpful information related to loss, grief and end-of-life issues, while bringing grievers of all walks of life together to support each other after the loss of a proud veteran.

You can call the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors 24/7 at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277). They will help identify what military grief resources are available to you and provide you with a report of researched, local grief resources free of charge. Learn More


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