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Q&A: Compensation for families of soldiers killed on duty

Compensation when soldiers die

How much money do the families of soldiers receive when they are killed in a war zone?

According to the Department of Defense's A Survivor's Guide to Benefits, compensation for the surviving family members of a service member killed on duty includes:

• A "death gratuity" of $100,000.

• Rent-free military family housing for up to a year or an allowance for housing. Survivors are also entitled to transportation, per diem and shipment of household goods and baggage.

• Up to $8,800 is available for burial.

• Payment of all the service member's unused accrued leave.

• Insurance payment of up to $400,000. Service members are automatically enrolled and insured for that amount, but may reduce or decline coverage as desired.

All the benefits listed above are tax-free.

• The survivor benefit plan may be available . It calls for 55 percent of what the service member's retirement pay would have been if he or she had been retired with 100 percent disability. Spouses can get this payment for children only, which would not reduce the payment under the dependency and indemnity compensation (see below).

• The dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) calls for a surviving spouse to be paid $1,154 a month for life, tax-free, or $1,404 a month if there are children under age 18, unless he or she remarries before age 57. Also, each child receives $286 a month until he or she marries or turns 19, or 23 if he or she is attending a VA-approved institution of higher learning, or for life if he or she is disabled. The surviving spouse and dependent children up to age 26 may also qualify for up to $42,120 for 45 months of full-time education benefits per person from the VA.

• Social Security: A monthly Social Security survivor annuity is provided for a spouse caring for the deceased member's dependent children under age 16 and for eligible minor children of an insured service member. Benefits are the same as for the family of any deceased civilian worker.

• Health care: A surviving spouse who hasn't remarried and minor dependents are eligible for medical care at military facilities or are covered by Department of Defense health insurance.

• The surviving spouse who hasn't remarried and qualified unmarried dependents are eligible to shop at military commissaries and exchanges.

• The survivors of a service member whose death occurs overseas in a terrorist or military action is exempt from paying the decedent's income tax for at least the year in which the death occurred.

Example: The surviving husband of a corporal with four years of service and one child would receive one-time payments of up to $525,000 and monthly annuity payments from all sources of up to $45,000 a year while dependent children remain in the household.

To see A Survivor's Guide to Benefits guide, go to and click on the Survivor's Guide link.

Q&A: Compensation for families of soldiers killed on duty 07/24/11 [Last modified: Sunday, July 24, 2011 4:30am]
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