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Death Gratuity

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The death gratuity is a one-time non-taxable payment to help surviving family members deal with the financial hardships that accompany the loss of a servicemember.

How Much Is The Death Gratuity?

A payment of $100,000 is payable for survivors. The death gratuity is tax free from federal and state income taxes.

Who Is Covered By The Death Gratuity?

The death gratuity is payable to survivors of those whose deaths were under the following conditions:

  • A member of an armed force under his jurisdiction who dies while on active duty or while performing authorized travel to or from active duty;
  • A Reserve of an armed force who dies while on inactive duty training (with exceptions);
  • Any Reserve of an armed force who assumed an obligation to perform active duty for training, or inactive duty training (with exceptions) and who dies while traveling directly to or from that active duty for training or inactive duty training;
  • Any member of a reserve officers' training corps who dies while performing annual training duty under orders for a period of more than 13 days, or while performing authorized travel to or from that annual training duty; or any applicant for membership in a reserve officers' training corps who dies while attending field training or a practice cruise or while performing authorized travel to or from the place where the training or cruise is conducted; or
  • A person who dies while traveling to or from or while at a place for final acceptance, or for entry upon active duty (other than for training), in an armed force, who has been ordered or directed to go to that place, and who
  • Has been provisionally accepted for that duty; or
  • Has been selected for service in that armed force.

Who May Receive The Death Gratuity?

The death gratuity is payable to survivors of the deceased in this order:

  1. The member's lawful surviving spouse.
  2. If there is no spouse - to the child or children of the member, regardless of age or marital status, in equal shares.
  3. If none of the above - to the parents, or brothers and/or sisters, or any combination as designated by the deceased member.
  4. Natural father or mother.
  5. Father or mother through adoption, in equal shares.
  6. Natural brothers and sisters.
  7. Any person who acted as guardian for not less than one year at any time before the deceased member's entry into active service.
  8. Brothers and sisters of half blood and those through adoption.
  9. Surviving parents, in equal shares.
  10. Surviving brothers and sisters, in equal shares.

The death gratuity is not paid to any other person when there are no survivors as listed above.

If an eligible beneficiary dies before receiving the amount to which entitled, such amount is paid to the then living survivor(s) first listed above.

The claim form required to apply for this benefit is DD Form 397, Claim Certification and Voucher for Death Gratuity Payment.

Retiree Within 120 Days of Separation from Active Duty

A lump sum gratuitous $12,420 payment made to eligible beneficiaries when death occurs within 120 days after retiring. There is no death gratuity payment for retiree's families when the retiree dies past 120 days of active duty service. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service issues this payment only if the Veterans' Administration (VA) determines death was caused by an illness or injury incurred while the retiree was on active duty.

The term "active duty" encompasses full-time active reserve personnel traveling directly en route to or from or participating in annual training (AT), active duty training (ADT), initial active duty training (IADT), active duty for special work (ADSW), special active duty training (SADT) or inactive duty training (IDT) and Guard personnel traveling directly en route to or from or participating in AT, ADT, full time national guard duty (FTNGD), temporary tour of active duty (TTAD), IADT or IDT.

This amount is excludable from gross income for tax purposes. The death gratuity payment is made to survivors of the deceased in this order:

  1. The deceased member's surviving spouse.
  2. If there is no spouse, to the child or children of the member, regardless of age or marital status, in equal shares (state laws guide payment to minor children).
  3. If none of the above, to the parents, or brothers and/or sisters, or any combination as designated by the deceased member.

The death gratuity is not paid to any other person when there are no survivors as listed above.

If an eligible beneficiary dies before receiving the amount to which entitled, such amount is paid to the then living survivor (s) first listed above.

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