Increase in Death Gratuity
July 1, 2005
DoD Release #: 669-05
DoD Announces Increase in Death Gratuity and SGLI
The Department of Defense announced today a significant increase in the death gratuity for the survivors of service members killed in action and the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage for service members deployed to designated combat zones.
The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror and Tsunami Relief Act 2005 (Public Law 109-13) increases this immediate cash payment from $12,420 to $100,000 for survivors of those whose death is as a result of hostile actions and occurred in a designated combat operation or combat zone or while training for combat or performing hazardous duty.
The supplemental also increases the maximum amount of SGLI coverage from $250,000 to $400,000 for all service members effective Sept. 1, 2005 and provides that the department will pay or reimburse the premiums to service members, who are deployed in a designated combat zone for $150,000 of SGLI coverage.
Until the effective date for the SGLI increase, the supplemental provides for a special death gratuity of $150,000, retroactive to October 7, 2001, for survivors of those whose death is in a designated combat operation or combat zone or occurred while training for combat or performing hazardous duty.
The Secretary of Defense has designated all areas where service members are in receipt of the combat zone tax exclusion as qualifying combat zones and all members deployed outside the United States on orders in support of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom as participating in qualifying combat operations.
Effective immediately, survivors of service members, who die in these qualifying zones or operations, will receive the increased benefits.
The services will also identify eligible survivors of service members who died in these designated zones and operations since October 7, 2001 and begin making the retroactive payments within a few days.
The process of identifying all eligible beneficiaries and completing these retroactive payments will take several months.
Survivors of members who did not die in a designated combat operation or combat zone, but were training for combat or performing hazardous duty, will also qualify for the increased benefits.
Circumstances that qualify include: aerial flight, parachute duty, demolition duty, diving duty, war games, practice alerts, tactical exercises, leadership reaction courses, grenade and live fire exercises, hand-to-hand combat training, confidence and obstacle courses, accident involving a military vehicle or military weapon, exposure to toxic fumes or gas and explosion of military ordnance.
No amount of monetary compensation or level of assistance can replace a human life. However, it is our country’s duty to recognize the loss of a service member with dignified and appropriate support for the family members left behind.
These death benefit enhancements recognize the direct sacrifice of life of those service members placed in harm’s way and in service to the nation.
All beneficiaries for retroactive payments will be contacted by mail or telephone. If someone is not contacted, but thinks he may be entitled to added benefits, he may inquire at the following addresses or telephone numbers:
Army: Department of the Army Casualty Operations at toll-free 1-800-626-3317.
Navy: Navy Personnel Command (PERS-62), 5720 Integrity Drive, Millington, TN 38055-6200 or call toll-free 1-800-368-3202.
Air Force: Air Force Personnel Center Casualty Services Branch at AFPC/DPFCS, 550 C Street West, Suite 14, Randolph AFB TX 78150-4216 or call toll-free 1-800-433-0048.
USMC: HQMC Casualty Office, 3280 Russell Road, Attn: MRPC, Quantico, VA 22134 or call toll-free 1-800-847-1597.
USCG: Coast Guard Personnel Services Center, 444 SE Quincy St., Topeka KS 66683-3591; Phone 785-339-3570.
I have opined about this in the past. I felt then, and to some degree still do feel, that the Death Gratuity was adequate. Since the services pay for all other costs related to the funeral of the fallen, the death gratuity of $12,400 should have been enough to pay for anything over and above what the services pays. I guess the increase is good, but still hold that $100,000 is probably too much. I know that I will get an argument from many, but when one thinks about the fact that there is virtually no out-of-pocket expense to the militatry funeral and honors (except what the family wants in addition to services provided), then a more reasonable increase to $25,000 would be adequate.
I did agree and still do agree, that an increase in SGLI for those hostile/combat related deaths is appropriate. I remember a time when I had NO choice about SGLI coverage, I am happy to see this increase, even with the special conditions.