This is Part 2 of 2 in a series to help guide military members, veterans and their families in getting their affairs in order. "Getting your affairs in order" has become the euphemism of choice for "properly taking care of things before you die." As a member of the military, this subject deserves special attention given the reality of the risks you take as well as the unique services and processes afforded to you and your family for your service.
Part 1 will guide you through considerations and steps to take before something should happen. Part 2 is meant to guide surviving loved ones on the steps to take.
The time just after a loved one's death is painful and confusing. As the loved one of a veteran, however, you have a few extra things to worry about – and additional benefits as a result of you and your family's sacrifice.
Arranging Military Burial Honors
Your funeral director should ask you for the necessary forms, and is in charge of contacting the DoD to arrange military honors. Most funeral directors are highly familiar with this process, and should know exactly what to do. The DoD requires only 48 hours of notice to dispatch an honor guard. As mentioned in Part 1 (link here), you are likely to need your loved one's DD214 in order to secure these benefits. If you cannot find a copy of your loved one's DD214, and cannot rely on the VA or National Archives to obtain a copy on time, you can call a private archivist who will find the form for you, usually within 1 or 2 days time, or get it rushed from the VA. Things to keep in mind:
- It is not required for the DoD to send an actual bugler to your loved one's funeral, instead playing a recording with a bugle insert, or a cassette player. If it is important to you that an actual bugler play taps, contact Bugles Across America at least 24 hours before the service - they will dispatch a professional volunteer musician to play Taps for your veteran.
- If your service member died on active duty and a hate group is threatening to protest, call the Patriot Guard captain in your state for a group of bikers to come and block the group's access to your area, local law enforcement, and the local press to ask for help. You can also ask a friend to set up a Pennies in Protest fund drive to raise money for a local charity.
There are a series of benefits and services you may be entitled to, depending on the circumstances of your service member's death and your own financial situation. In order to claim the majority of these benefits, you will need your service member's DD214, as well as any medical records and Service Treatment records they have. For a full list of benefits, and check your eligibility, check the Veteran Benefits Administration's website.
Things to consider:
- Pension - if you are a surviving spouse or child, you may be entitled to a survivor's pension.
- Life Insurance - if you know of a Veteran's Life Insurance policy under your loved one's name, file your claim. You will need a copy of the death certificate.
AfterSteps is an online service that helps users and families get their affairs in order. The service allows members to access estate planning forms, securely store important documents, catalog financial and digital account information, and document final wishes. AfterSteps securely stores members' plans and delivers them to designated loved ones when the time comes. AfterSteps has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. For more information on AfterSteps, go to www.aftersteps.com.