Military Death Benefits – Beyond SGLI

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It is a little morbid to think about, but we’re all going to die. This means we all need to plan for it.

Everyone knows about life insurance, but what else does your family get if you die while in the military? Without knowing the answer to this question, it is impossible to execute a complete plan in the event of your death.

Here is a quick summary of the major benefits your family would receive if you died while in the military:

Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) – Most know this as the military life insurance policy. It pays up to $400,000, although you can reduce this amount if you want.

Death Gratuity – This is a tax free $100,000 payment that does to the beneficiary of your choice.

Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) – Your next of kin gets assigned a CAO to help them apply for benefits.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) – This pays a monthly, tax free allowance of $1,283.11 to the spouse and an additional $317.87 per child under age 18. If you have at least one child, you get another $270 per month for two years. The rates are adjusted annually for inflation. In addition, depending on their income, some surviving parents could receive this.

Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) – The SBP pays a monthly benefit equal to 55% of the service member’s retirement pay if they were retired at 100% disability at the time of their death. It is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of DIC the spouse receives.

Burial Benefits – You’d get some burial expenses and entitlements from the VA.

Fry Scholarship – The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship provides Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the children and surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty while on active duty after September 10, 2001. Eligible beneficiaries attending school may receive up to 36 months of benefits at the 100% level.

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) – The DEA Program offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or of Veterans who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition.

Other Scholarships – Check the Fisher House Foundation’s scholarship search tool.

Commissary and Exchange Shopping Privileges – These continue.

VA Home Loans – Eligibility for these remains.

TRICARE – Your family can continue to use Tricare as usual for three years. After three years, coverage for children doesn’t change—they are covered as “active duty family members” until they age out of TRICARE or lose eligibility for other reasons. Coverage for surviving spouses changes to that of a retired family member.

As you can see, there are quite a lot of death benefits besides SGLI. Make sure take these into account when figuring out your estate plan.

3 thoughts on “Military Death Benefits – Beyond SGLI

    Wells, Brian P (Auckland) said:
    September 2, 2020 at 17:21

    My understanding of SBP is that if we die on active duty our spouse would receive this regardless of our disability level. Do you have a different understanding?



      Joel Schofer, MD, MBA, CPE responded:
      September 2, 2020 at 21:00

      They assume 100% disability (since you are dead) to calculate the rate: “The SBP pays a monthly benefit equal to 55% of the service member’s retirement pay if they were retired at 100% disability at the time of their death. It is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of DIC the spouse receives.”


    […] How is insurance different for those in the military? It is a little more complicated. Many life insurance policies used to have war/military clauses. Some cater to the military, though, and aren’t as restrictive. Here’s how to buy life insurance in the military. Also, don’t forget about the other death benefits of being in the military. […]


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