VA Announces New Survivor Benefits Web Site /Death Benefits, Insurance Increase for Servicemembers Email This Story Print This Story

September 13, 2005

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has created a new Internet Web site for the surviving spouses and dependents of military personnel who died on active duty and for the survivors and dependents of veterans who died after leaving the military.

“One of VA's basic missions is to care for the survivors of veterans and military members," said the Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. "By harnessing the power of the Internet, we can provide them with the latest information about benefits in a clear, readable format."

The Web site is organized into two broad categories – death in service and death after service. It provides visitors with information about a wide range of benefits for the surviving spouse, dependent children, and dependent parents of deceased veterans and active-duty personnel.

The site also has information from -- and links to -- other federal agencies and organizations that offer benefits and services to survivors and dependents.

The new website can be found at or by clicking the “Survivors Benefits” button on the left panel of

Death Benefits, Insurance Increase for Servicemembers
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2005 – Compensation for the survivors of servicemembers who die in combat zones and insurance coverage for servicemembers will both increase significantly this year, a military pay official said today.
An increase in death gratuity benefits from $12,500 to $100,000 already has taken effect, and Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance maximum coverage will increase to $400,000 starting Sept. 1, said Air Force Col. Virginia Penrod, director of military compensation.

The increase in death benefits took effect May 11 and is dated retroactively to Oct. 7, 2001, Penrod said. This means that survivors of servicemembers who died between Oct. 7, 2001, and May 11, 2005, will receive the increased benefits, as will survivors of servicemembers who die from May 11 on, she said.

The increased benefits are for survivors of servicemembers who die in combat zones, combat operations and combat-related situations, she said. Combat-related situations can include airborne duty, combat training, demolition duty and training exercises, among other things, she said. A policy designating combat areas and situations was given to the individual services in June, and each service is now reviewing cases. Payments already have begun, but the process of identifying and paying all eligible survivors could take several months, she said.

When the increase in SGLI coverage takes effect Sept. 1, it also will be dated retroactively to Oct. 7, 2001, she said. Survivors of servicemembers who died in a combat zone, combat operations or combat-related situations between the October date and Sept. 1 will receive $150,000 in transitional insurance, which will bring them to the $400,000 level, she said.

In addition to the increased coverage, DoD will pay premiums of $150,000 for servicemembers involved in combat operations or deployed to a combat zone, Penrod said.

The increase of these two benefits came about as a result of a 2004 study evaluating the adequacy of death benefits for servicemembers, she said. The study found that benefits were adequate, but didn't recognize the unique sacrifice made by servicemembers who die in combat situations, she said.

"There was concern that we weren't recognizing direct sacrifice of life in service to our nation," she said. "That's how the increase was made for those particular situations."

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