RECOMMENDED STEPS WHEN A RETIRED SERVICE MEMBER DIES
___ Contact a funeral home to begin making arrangements (see Note #1)
___ Report the death to all government agencies paying retirement and disability benefits (see Note # 2)
___ Gather important documents (will, birth certificate, DD Form 214, insurance policies, marriage certificate, etc. (see Note # 3)
___ Call to start applicable claims processing (see Note # 4)
___ Determine immediate and short financial need and income sources
___ Arrange for help, if needed, to settle financial and legal matters.
___ Notify joint account agencies (banks credit unions, brokers, credit card, auto insurance and state registration/titles, home insurance, associations and clubs, etc.)
___ Review you own legal documents for possible revisions or amendments (will, power of attorney, insurance policies, medical directives, etc.)
___ Update dependent’s military identification card
The following services and assistance are usually furnished by the funeral home
Notifying the Social security Administration (SSA) (1-800-772-1213)
Arranging for interment in a cemetery (including state and military cemeteries).
Ordering “certified” death certificates
The funeral home does NOT usually notify the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or the US Office of Personnel OPM (Civil Service pay). You need to make sure you do not incur indebtedness by failing to notify these agencies.
DFAS (https://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/survivors/Retiree-death/, (DFAS Form 9221) or call 1-800-321-1080 or 1-888-332-7411
VA: https://va.org/reporting-a-veterans-death/ 1-888-767-6738 (1-800-827-1000 if member was receiving VA benefits)
DEERS: https://militaryrx.express-scripts.com/ 1-800-538-9552
The following are the most common documentation requirements
Service member’s copies of all DD 214s. This frequently is a problem when there is a combination of officer and enlisted service, or a combination of Reserve/ Regular service.
The inclusive dates and termination of all marriages by both the deceased and the spouse.
Give priority to notifying life insurers and any financial institutions where you can access funds quickly. Additionally, most veterans’ organizations (including your local MOAA chapter) offer assistance to help you complete applicable government forms.
The Death notification to DFAS should automatically initiate action by DFAS to notify a surviving spouse if the deceased retiree elected the Survivor Benefit Plan. If you have questions call 1-800-321-1080 or 1-888-332-7411
The death notification to the SSA should automatically initiate SSA action for the $255 death benefit, and notification to a surviving spouse regarding any changes to monthly Social Security benefits. If you have questions, call 1-800-SSA-1213.
The VA provide government-furnished headstone/marker and burial at a national cemetery. Also, a surviving spouse may be eligible for pension benefits when a determination is made that the death is service-connected whether or not there is a financial need. If you have questions call 1-800-827-1000 or visit www.va.gov online. You may also work with a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) to help you file a service-connected claim for Dependent Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
You can also click on this URL to view a printable copy in Word:
COLUMBIA RIVER CHAPTER
Information for Surviving Spouses
Submitted by Terry Babin, Membership Services Committee chair & Terry Whisenant, Surviving Spouse Liaison
Who Is a MOAA Surviving Spouse:
A “surviving spouse” is the widow or widower of a Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) member. There is no distinction made between spouses who were married during the MOAA member’s active or reserve service, and those spouses who married the service member after release from active duty or retirement. All surviving spouses are welcomed, and encouraged to participate in the Columbia River Chapter, MOAA, operations and activities.
The Chapter’s Surviving Spouse Representative:
The Chapter’s Surviving Spouse Representative is your key “go to” person. The Representative will help connect you with other Chapter officers and supporting resources. The Representative is also a voting member of the Chapter’s Executive Board in order to ensure that surviving spouses’ interests and concerns are addressed in a timely manner.
Some surviving spouses have not previously been active in the Chapter. The Surviving Spouse Representative is your personal advisor and friend to help introduce you to other members, and make it easy to participate to the extent you are able.
Why the Following Information Is Important:
The loss of a loved one can create difficult challenges for the surviving spouse.
The process of settling personal affairs is complicated by the additional decisions and government-generated paperwork involved in the case of the death of a member, retired member, or veteran of the uniformed services. Columbia River Chapter representatives can usually provide information and assistance to help in your transition to a new phase of your life.
What You Need to Do When a MOAA Member Spouse Dies:
Chapter assistance should be requested as soon as possible after the death of a MOAA member. You, or a family or legal representative, should contact either the Chapter’s Chairman, Membership Services Committee (MSC), or the Chapter’s Surviving Spouse Representative. The phone numbers are listed on the front page of the Chapter’s Newsletter, and also provided on the Chapter’s web site (www.moaacolumbiariver.org).
The funeral director usually makes the arrangements for any military honors and internment (including at government-operated cemeteries). You may, however, contact the Chapter’s MSC Chairman if you have questions about your government-furnished options before making a decision.
The Chapter web site includes a checklist for survivors about time-sensitive actions which need to be done following the death of a member. A Personal Affairs representative from the MSC can help you or your family representative complete the actions listed on the checklist—particularly those actions which require completion of government benefits’ forms and coordination with government agencies.
The National Headquarters of MOAA (1-(800)-234-6622) should also be notified by you or your legal representative as soon as possible after the death of a MOAA spouse. The member’s membership number can be found on the address label of MOAA’s Military Officer magazine. If you desire that the notice of passing be included in the next edition of the Military Officer, then the call must be made by the primary next-of-kin.
MOAA and You:
MOAA has long-recognized that survivors of active, reserve, retired, and veterans of the uniformed Services may be entitled to certain benefits and privileges earned by the service member’s service and sacrifices. MOAA is dedicated to preserving and improving the legislation governing those benefits and privileges, and helping those eligible receive their full entitlement. Our local Chapter can also be part of your social and support community.
Chapter Resources to Support Survivors:
The Chapter’s award-winning Newsletter, which is published about 6 times per year, is a compilation of a variety of news and information of interest to military members and spouses as well as the schedule and instructions for participating in upcoming Chapter functions. You can receive the Newsletter either via e-mail or postal service by communicating your preference to the Chapter Secretary directly, or also through the Surviving Spouse Representative, or Chairman of the MSC. You will find additional information about the Chapter on the Chapter’s web site.
Semi-annually you will receive a phone call from a Chapter representative as part of the Chapter’s “Keeping Connected” program. This call is made to ensure that you are receiving the Newsletter, ask if there are any questions or issues that need Chapter officers’ assistance, say “hello—we are thinking of you,” and update your contact information. When possible, you will have the same person calling you each time. The calls will not be made for the purpose of any solicitation. Please notify the Chairman of the MSC if you have not received a call by each June and November, or you do not want to be called.
The Chapter activities offer you an opportunity to get out and socialize with others who might share some of your interests, and have common experiences. Chapter meetings and events, except the Annual Meeting each January, are focused on programs and social engagement rather than the conduct of Chapter business. Chapter business is conducted at the Executive Board meetings usually held the second Thursday of each month (except July and August). Surviving spouses may attend the Board meetings, but do not have a vote in these proceedings.
Your MOAA Membership as a Surviving Spouse:
If your deceased spouse was a national MOAA “Life Member,” that life membership transfers to you at no cost as the surviving spouse upon notification of the death to the national headquarters of MOAA.
If the deceased member was not a “Life Member,” a representative of the national headquarters staff can briefly explain options for national MOAA membership as a surviving spouse. Options include Life Membership, Premium Membership at a discounted annual cost, and no cost Basic Membership. Our Chapter requests and encourages you to have a national membership—even if at the Basic and free membership level.
Within the Columbia River Chapter, surviving spouses have full membership rights including the right to vote, hold office, and participate in all activities and events. There are no annual Chapter dues; however, you are encouraged when able to be involved in the scholarship and charitable activities of the Chapter’s tax-exempt Columbia River MOAA Fund.
Chapter Expectations of You as a MOAA Surviving Spouse: We hope that you will:
Maintain your national MOAA membership.
Keep us informed about any changes to your mailing and e-mail addresses, and phone number(s).
Participate in Chapter functions and charities to the extent you are able and comfortable.
“FORT VANCOUVER” CEMETERY UPDATE
by Terry Babin
Personal Affairs Chair
Vancouver Barracks Post Cemetery became a VA National Cemetery on March 6, 2020, when it was transferred to NCA by the Department of the Army in fulfillment of Executive Order 13781 and the VA’s own Agency Reform plan. It was the fifth cemetery transferred to the NCA by the Army since June 2019.
Vancouver Barracks was established in 1849 as the first U.S. Army post in the Pacific Northwest. It closed as an active post in 2011. The cemetery contains more than 1,500 occupied gravesites, including U.S. military personnel, civilians, foreign personnel, German and Italian POW’s, Native Americans and Unknowns.
The cemetery lies adjacent to Fourth Plain near the Veterans Administration campus in Vancouver. This article provides an update on the cemetery, and the most recent general eligibility criteria for burial of other than active duty service members.
Originally, administrative and operational control was exercised by the Vancouver Barracks. When the Barracks was deactivated, control was transferred to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. During 2016, there was another transfer of control to the 88th Regional Support Command (Public Works) at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and finally, to the VA as a national cemetery.
There is space available at the cemetery—rumors to the contrary are incorrect. Retirees of both the active and reserve components are eligible. Reserve and Guard retirees not drawing retirement pay are eligible. Also, honorably discharged veterans with “wartime service” (as defined by the VA) are eligible.
Confirmation of eligibility and arrangements for interment are made by the funeral home. Bring a copy of the DD Form 214 with you to the funeral home. You can also submit VA Form 40-10007, APPLICATION FOR PRE-NEED DETERMINATION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR BURIAL IN A VA NATIONAL CEMETERY to get pre-approved at https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-10007.pdf.
PERSONAL AFFAIRS REMINDERS
by Terry Babin
Personal Affairs is one of several areas of membership support offered by the Columbia River Chapter’s Membership Services Committee. Personal Affairs’ primary activities include the following:
Providing information to assist members and their families in end of life
Assisting survivors of deceased members with government-related notifications and
Sending cards to ill members and next of kin of deceased
Please remember to notify a Personal Affairs representative of Columbia River Chapter, MOAA, in cases of serious illness or death of a member and surviving spouses.
MOAA’s Personal Affairs Action Guide: A Personal Inventory for Peace of Mind is a terrific document for capturing most all the information your survivor(s) or personal representative will need. You can order this publications and others direct from the MOAA National Headquarters.
Included in this Newsletter are the updated survivors’ checklists for members and surviving spouses. See pages 7 and 8.
The following is our annual reminder about the basics of what you need to do help your survivors have the information needed to properly settle your affairs:
Immediately notifying the Defense Finance and Accounting Center, or your Uniformed Service’s equivalent, when the death of the retiree, or a dependent receiving a Survivor Benefit Plan annuity, occurs.
Have all separation documents (e.g., DD Form
for the service member covering all periods of active duty. This is a particular important for those having prior enlisted service, or broken
Have all marriage, divorce, and death certificates for both member and spouse—or at least know all the full names, dates and
Keep current your designation for beneficiary(ies) for any pay due and unpaid at time of
Have current contact information available for all next of kin.
Keep your important documents in one place—easy to locate. Make sure your spouse, and a third party should you and your spouse die at the same time, know the location of:
Safe deposit box (and, where is the key—and who can access?)
User names and passwords for internet-based accounts
Investments and details
Real property information
S. Savings Bonds (and have you kept the death beneficiary information current?)
Tax filings and current year records
Who needs to be notified or consulted upon your death?
Personal representative or designated Primary Next of Kin if widowed
Have you also written out your instructions for the disposition of items not specifically addressed in your Will. This can include sports and hobby items, collections, special personal effects, and military memorabilia—including documents, awards, and citations. Have you provided any personal history or comments to go with those items, which have special meaning to you, historical value, or might be of interest (or value) to the recipient?
In most cases, the surviving spouse or a personal representative may have a general idea of your desires regarding funeral arrangements and burial instructions, but better yet to write them down. If you want a government furnished memorial marker or headstone, is there anything in particular you want on that headstone?
Any questions? Call our Chapter’s Personal Affairs Chairman, Terry, at (360) 608-7789; or e- mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry Babin–Personal Affairs Chairman
CHALLENGING THE HIGH COST OF DYING
From www.MOAA.org By Vera Wilson
Woody Allen once said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” None of us wants to think about it, but traditional funerals cost at least $6,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
I learned this hard fact when my mother passed away. I knew she had thoughtfully prepared a will and given me directions for her burial, but our family had not saved up.
This figure doesn’t even include cemetery costs and “extras” such as flowers or limousines, which easily can add hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Although costs can vary widely across the country, funeral professionals say it’s not unusual to spend much more for the entire funeral.
Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to manage funeral costs and still meet your family’s emotional and financial needs.
Don’t avoid the issue
Planning a funeral in advance has many benefits, not the least of which is financial. Grief-stricken loved ones often falsely believe the amount spent on a funeral is a reflection of their feelings for the deceased, so they might overspend. Knowing you want to be cremated and have your ashes placed in your favorite tackle box likely will save your family the cost of a casket or an elaborate urn. Do not include your plans in your will (which usually is read after the funeral), but do put them in writing and leave them with someone you trust.
As callous as it might sound, pre-planning also lets you shop around. A friend of mine says his terminally ill mother asked him to find a good price on cremation services, claiming she “never paid full price for anything in her life and wasn’t going to start now!” By calling or visiting several area funeral providers, my friend found prices deviating by as much as $1,000.
You can save hundreds on caskets and urns by purchasing them through online retailers, specialty stores at your local mall, and even Wal-Mart and Costco. Online retailers offer next-day delivery, usually at no charge, and can ship directly to a funeral home. Funeral providers are required by law to let you bring your own casket and are not allowed to charge a handling fee.
Be mindful that many cemeteries have their own requirements, such as an outer container for a casket that keeps the grave from caving in. No casket or container will preserve a body forever, so opt for a less expensive liner rather than a metal vault.
You can’t take it with you
Prepaying for funeral expenses is a thoughtful gesture for those left behind, and it guarantees your wishes, such as location of burial. It also can save money by allowing you to lock in today’s prices. Read all contract details carefully. What happens to the money if the funeral provider goes out of business? What if you move? Can you back out without penalty? What happens if the casket you picked out is discontinued? Who gets the interest income?
State regulations also come into play. For your protection, most states, but not all, require some percentage of prepaid funds be placed in a state-regulated trust. Others mandate the provider purchase a life insurance policy so the money is there when it’s needed.
Another option is purchasing funeral insurance, payable to a beneficiary immediately upon death.
The final salute
Generally, active and retired members of the armed forces, including the reserve components, are entitled to significant burial benefits:
a gravesite at a VA national or state cemetery,
opening and closing of the grave,
a government headstone or marker, and
a burial flag and presidential memorial certificate.