Survivors and dependents of veterans may be entitled to a number of ancillary benefit programs. The following is a brief description of the primary programs. Contact the Tarrant County Veteran Services Office at 817-531-5645 if you have any questions.
1. Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card
Eligible surviving spouse and dependent children of deceased veterans who were rated 100 percent permanently and totally disabled by the VA, or veterans who were Medal of Honor recipients, are eligible for a DD Form 1173, Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card. Un-remarried widow or widowers, and eligible child or children under age 21 (or age 23, if attending an approved institution of higher learning full-time, or over age 21 and determined to be incapable of self-suppor), are entitled to the DD Form 1173, Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card. A disabled child over age 21 is eligible for the ID card only if the disability occurred prior to age 21 (or age 23, if attending school full-time at the time of the incapacitation) and the child was -- at the time of the member's death -- dependent upon the member for more than 50 percent support. The DD Form 1173, Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card authorizes the recipient to enter any military installation in the world for the purposes of gaining entrance to any post or base commissary, branch exchange or theater. It also grants entrance to military installations to attempt to gain services from the base or post hospital, if approved by the VA, as well as access any services that may be available from that post's or base's Family Support Center and Legal Office. Contact the military installation nearest you to get an ID card. For the Fort Worth area, call the Naval Air Station Pass and I.D. section at 817-782-5244 or 817-782-3369. You can also go to the ID section in Grand Prairie. Call them at 972-343-4399. You may need to acquire a letter from the VA listing the deceased veteran's disability rating to establish eligibility. You can get this letter by calling the VA Call Center at 800-827-1000.
2. Death Gratuity
A Death Gratuity is a lump sum gratuitous payment made by the military to eligible beneficiaries when death occurs within 120 days after retiring. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) issues this payment only if the VA determines that death was caused by an illness or injury incurred while the retiree was on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty for training. As of November 2012, the death gratuity payment is $6,000, of which $3,000 is taxable income. The claim forms required to apply for this benefit are the DD Form 397, Claim Certification and Voucher for Death Gratuity Payment, VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by Surviving Spouse or Child, or VA Form 21-535, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent or Parents. The claim forms, along with supporting documentation i.e., marriage certificate, birth certificate, civilian court custodianship certificate or guardianship order should be mailed to the Department of Veteran Affairs Regional Office responsible for claim processing. For beneficiaries living in the North Texas area, these forms should be sent to: Department of Veteran Affairs, Waco Regional Office, 701 Clay Ave., Waco, TX, 76799.
3. Unpaid Pay and Allowances
The retirement pay of a military member stops on the first day of the month in which the retiree dies. Unpaid pay and allowances is a lump sum the military pays the beneficiary the retiree names. It includes all pay due the retiree but unpaid at the time of death. Normally, this amounts to the retirement pay from the first day of the month of death through the date of death. When the beneficiary designated by the retiree is deceased, or when the member elects "order of precedence," any money due is paid to the first eligible recipient in the following order:
1. The member's lawful surviving spouse,
2. If there is no spouse, to the child or children of the member and descendants of deceased children, on their behalf,
3. If none of the above, to the parents of the member in equal shares or to the surviving parent,
4. if none of the above, to the duly appointed legal representative of the member's estate.
5. if none of the above, to the person or persons determined to be entitled under the laws of the state in which the member was domiciled.
The claim form required to apply for this benefit is the Standard Form 1174, Claim for Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Member of the Uniformed Services. You can get the form by calling the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at 800-321-1080 or by the Internet using Google. When the designated beneficiary (or beneficaries) has the form, it should be completed and signed. Obtain the signatures of two witnesses to make the form valid, and return the form to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, U S Annuitant Pay, Post Office Box 7131, London, KY 40742-7131. Always enclose a copy of the death certificate with your claim, even if one was previously mailed. For more information, view DFAS's website at www.dfas.mil, or call them at 800-321-1080.
4. Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)
Retired pay stops when the retiree dies. Military retirees are automatically enrolled in SBP when they retire unless they specifically decline participation in writing with the spouse's concurrence. SBP provides eligible survivors with a monthly annuity when the retiree dies and IF they participated in the plan. Survivors can contact DFAS at 800-321-1080 to see if the retiree participated in the SB DFAS's website is www.dfas.mil
5. Social Security Administration Benefits
Survivors of deceased veterans/retirees should apply directly to the SSA office in their area to determine their eligibility for SSA benefits such as burial allowances. The SSA makes a lump-sum death payment of $255 if the member was fully insured to the surviving spouse. An application should be filed with the local SSA office to claim this benefit. In Fort Worth, contact the SSA office at 2901 Altamesa Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76133, phone number 866-613-2745 or downtown at 819 Taylor Street, #8A38, Fort Worth, TX 76102, phone number 817-978-3653. The SSA's website is www.ssa.gov.
6. Department of Defense's Medical Care for Retirees, Survivors, and Dependents (TRICARE)
TRICARE is the Department of Defense's health care program. It joins the military and the private sector health care delivery systems to better serve DOD beneficiaries, including surviving spouses and dependent family members of deceased military retirees. A spouse who remarries loses all medical care entitlement care regardless of any subsequent change in his or her marital status. Unmarried dependent children are entitled to medical care through TRICARE until age 21. If attending an approved institution of higher learning, entitlement continues until graduation or age 23, whichever occurs first. If a child is incapable of self-support due to an incapacity that occurred prior to his or her 21st birthday, medical care eligibility continues. Qualifying beneficiaries have three options for receiving care, with different cost sharing features in each option. TRICARE Service Centers, located near many military installations, have staff that can explain the various options and assist you in obtaining the services you need. Call 800-444-5445 to find the office near you.
7. Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veteran Affairs (CHAMPVA)
The CHAMPVA is a comprehensive health care program in which the VA shares the cost of covered health care services and supplies with eligible beneficiaries. Due to the similarity between CHAMPVA and the Department of Defense's TRICARE program the two are often mistaken for each other. CHAMPVA is a Department of Veterans Affairs program whereas TRICARE is a regionally managed health care program for active duty and retired members of the uniformed services, their families and survivors. In some cases a veteran may look to be eligible for both/either program on paper. However, if you are a military retiree, or the spouse of a veteran who was killed in action, you are and will always be a TRICARE beneficiary. You can't choose between the two.
To be eligible for CHAMPVA, you cannot be eligible for TRICARE/CHAMPUS and you must be in one of these categories: the spouse or child of a veteran who has been rated permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability by a VA regional office; the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who died from a VA-rated service connected disability; the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who was, at the time of death, rated permanently and totally disabled from a service connected disability; or the surviving spouse or child of a military member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct (in most of these cases, these family members are eligible for TRICARE, not CHAMPVA). Survivors/dependent children can view CHAMPVA's website at http://www.va.gov/PURCHASEDCARE/programs/dependents/champva/index.asp or call them at 800-733-8387 for more information.
Surviving spouses may be eligible for Medicare after a veteran dies. TRICARE stops and Medicare begins for most military retirees, survivors and dependents upon reaching age 65. Medicare is the health insurance protection program provided by the Social Security Act. Medicare is divided into two parts, Part A, Hospital Insurance and Part B, Medical Insurance. Part A is provided without cost, until it is used, whereas Part B can be purchased with the payment of a monthly premium. Medicare Part A begins upon reaching 65, if you are not working. If you plan to continue working beyond 65, you must apply for Medicare Part A. You should apply three months before you reach age 65.
9. Tricare for Life (TFL)
TFL is available for all dual TRICARE/Medicare-eligible uniformed-services retirees, including retired members of the Reserve Component who are in receipt of retired pay; Medicare eligible family members; Medicare-eligible widows/widowers; certain former spouses; and beneficiaries under age 65 who are also entitled to Medicare Part A because of a disability or chronic renal disease. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2001 Public Law 106-398 extended TRICARE health care and pharmacy benefits to Medicare-entitled uniformed-services retirees, Medicare-entitled retired guard members and reservists, Medicare-entitled family members and widows/widowers, and Medicare-entitled un-remarried former spouses who meet TRICARE eligibility requirements. You should confirm that your Medicare status is current in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). For more information call 888-363-5433 or visit their website at Tricare For Life
10. Tricare Retiree Dental Program (TRDP)
Retirees and their eligible family members can enroll in the TRDP, which is a premium-based program. It is the first, and only, dental benefits plan created by Congress especially for Uniformed Service's retirees and their family members. Those eligible to enroll are the un-remarried surviving spouse and eligible children of a deceased member who died while eligible for coverage as described above or Medal of Honor recipients and their eligible immediate family member or members, or the un-remarried surviving spouse/eligible immediate family member(s) of a deceased Medal of Honor recipient. Those not eligible for the TRDP area former spouses of eligible members, remarried surviving spouses of deceased members, family members of non-enrolled retirees under certain circumstances (the spouse and/or eligible family members of a Uniformed Services retiree may be allowed to join the Enhanced TRDP even if the retiree does not enroll. For more information, go to www.trdp.org or call 888-838-8737.
11. Tricare Pharmacy Program
TRICARE provides a world-class pharmacy benefit to active duty service members and their families, activated National Guard and Reserve Members and their families on Title 10 or Title 32 federal orders, Retired National Guard and Reserve Members and their families age 60 and above and receiving retired pay, retired service members and their families, survivors, widows/widowers and certain former spouses, and Medal of Honor recipients and their families. Eligible beneficiaries may fill prescription medications at military treatment facility known as MTF pharmacies; through the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy, at TRICARE retail network pharmacies, and at non-network pharmacies. For more information on the Tricare Pharmacy Program, go to their website at https://www.express-scripts.com/TRICARE/ or call them at 877-363-1303.
12. Base Commissary, Base Exchange and Base Theater Privileges
Unlimited base commissary, base exchange and base theater privileges are available to un-remarried surviving spouses and dependents of:
1. Veterans who died while on active duty, or
2. Veterans who were separated under honorable conditions and who are eligible for compensation due to being 100 percent permanently and totally disabled because of a service-connected disability, as determined by the Veterans Administration or one of the Military Services. Surviving spouses of reservists and their dependents also may be eligible.
For detailed information for Tarrant County, contact the Pass and ID Section at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth at 817- 782-5244 or the Pass and ID Section at the Grand Prairie Naval Reserve at 972-343-4399. You will need a VA certification letter verifying the veteran's disability rating for your use in obtaining commissary and exchange privileges from the armed forces. Call the VA toll-free at 800-827-1000 to get a commissary and exchange privileges letter.
13. Temporary Lodging at Military Installations
Surviving spouses and dependent children of deceased RETIREES may use temporary lodging on military installations on a space-available basis. Survivors and dependent children must be eligible to receive a military privilege ID card. Other persons may be eligible for these services as well. Contact the billeting office on the military installation that you are seeking lodging on for availability and eligibility information. You can find detailed information on installations at http://benefits.military.com/misc/installations/Landing_Page.jsp.
14. Space Available (Space A) Travel
Survivors and dependents of deceased retirees with a valid military ID card may be eligible for "Space Available" travel on military aircraft. Survivors should always realize that this type of travel is a "privilege" not an entitlement. Persons interested in pursuing this type of travel should contact the nearest military passenger terminal for procedures on how to use this benefit. The closest military passenger terminal in the DFW area is the NAS Fort Worth JRB Passenger Terminal in Fort Worth. You can get more information from them by calling 817-782-6288 or 817-782-6290. Their website is at http://www.cnic.navy.mil/fortworth/OperationsAndManagement/PassengerTerminal/index.htm.
15. Recreation Activities
As an un-remarried or unmarried surviving spouse of a deceased RETIREE, you are entitled to membership in the Officer's or Enlisted Club at U.S. military installations. The same applies to you and your children in the use of other recreational activities on a military installation such as the golf course, fitness center, bowling alley and hobby shops. Survivors and dependent children must be eligible to receive a military privilege ID card to take advantage of these services.
16. "No-Fee" Passports to Travel to Overseas Graves or Memorialization Sites
"No-fee" passports are available to immediate family members (spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters) for the expressed purpose of visiting their loved one's grave or memorialization site at an American military cemetery on foreign soil. For additional information, write to the American Battle Monuments Commission, Courthouse Plaza II, Suite 500, 2300 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201, or telephone 703-696-6897, or visit www.abmc.gov.
17. Civil Service Preference for Federal Employment
The Office of Personnel Management known as OPM administers entitlement to veterans' preference in employment under Title 5, U.S.C. veterans can receive 5 or 10 extra points on their civil service passing examination scores or ratings if they meet certain eligibility requirements.
In addition, 10 points may be added to the passing examination scores of veterans' spouses, surviving spouses and mothers under certain circumstances. This type of preference is called "derived preference," because it is based on service of a veteran who is not able to use the preference. Contact the Office of Personnel Management for more information at 202-606-1800.
18. Assistance from Military Family Support Centers
Surviving spouses and children of deceased retired military members are welcome at the Family Support Center in their area and will be served on a space-available basis. Services that may be available include counseling and educational programs in areas such as financial planning, personal enrichment, stress management and special needs assistance for exceptional family members. Other services may also include counseling on the Survivor Benefit Plan after the retiree has passed. Family Support Centers also offer a wide range of liaison services with other organizations. Survivors and dependent children must be eligible to receive a military privilege ID card. Survivors and dependent children in the Fort Worth, TX, area, should contact the NAS JRB Fleet and Family Support Center at 817-782-5287 to inquire about services available to them. Their website is http://cnic.navy.mil/fortworth/FleetAndFamilyReadiness/AboutFleetAndFamilyReadiness/index.htm
19. Legal Services Available To Survivors/Dependents Of Deceased Retired Veterans
Surviving spouses and dependent children of deceased retired veterans are able to receive free legal services from the Naval Legal Service Branch, NAS JRB, Fort Worth, TX. Services include estate planning, will preparation and some family law issues. For more information, go to their website at http://www.cnic.navy.mil/fortworth/InstallationGuide/FacilitiesAndResources/LegalServices/index.htm. Their phone number is 817-782-6007.
20. Assistance From The Appropriate Military Branch's Aid Or Relief Society Organizations
a. Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society ( NMCRS) provides need-based financial assistance and other services to members of the Naval Services of the United States and their eligible family members, eligible retirees and their survivors/dependents, and elderly parents of eligible deceased service members who have limited income and resources and no other family. They offer financial counseling, no-interest loans, grants, various support services, as well as referrals to other community-based resources when available. There are no fees for such assistance. For more information, go to our website at nmcrs.org, or call 817-782-6000.
b. Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) provides worldwide emergency financial assistance and education assistance programs, as well as offering an array of base community enhancement programs, that improve the quality of life for airmen, their families and surviving spouses and dependent age children of deceased Air Force personnel (who died on active duty or in retired status). For more information go to www.afas.org call 800-769-8951.
c. Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Relief Society (CGMA) assists clients during their time of financial need. Assistance is provided through counseling, short-term interest-free loans, financial grants, referrals, and other related means. Assistance is also provided involving everyday essentials including emergency housing and medical needs that are beyond the individual's ability to meet at the time assistance is requested. Retired military personnel and their surviving family members are eligible to receive assistance from the CGMA Society, providing they meet eligibility requirements. For more information, go to their website at www.cgmahq.org or call them in Houston at 713-671-5100 ext 5175, or in San Antonio at 210-346-3988.
d. Army Emergency Relief (AER) is the Army's own emergency financial assistance organization and is dedicated to "Helping the Army Take Care of Its Own." Widows, widowers and orphans of soldiers who died while on active duty or after retirement are eligible for assistance from this program. For more information go to http://www.aerhq.org/dnn563/Home.aspx or call 866-878-6378.
21. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
TAPS is a non-profit organization and is America's national peer support organization that cares about and supports all "survivors" including spouses, significant others, children, parents, siblings, coworkers, and friends affected by a death in the armed forces. TAPS operates a national toll-free crisis and information line 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, with help available through TAPS' Board of Advisors of leading experts in grief, trauma and critical incident stress. For more information, you may write to them at Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, National Headquarters, 2001 S Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009, call them toll free at 800-959-8277, or visit their website at www.taps.org.
22. Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.
A non-profit national military widows service organization that provides support and information to widows of service members who die on active duty or as a result of service-connected disabilities. They respond to all non-monetary requests for assistance. For additional information or assistance, you may write to the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., P.O. Box 361986, Birmingham, Alabama 35236, call them toll free at 888-751-6350, or visit their website at goldstarwives.org.
23. Military Retiree Survivor Checklist