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Guide to military survivor benefits
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2. Funeral benefits.
Members of the military killed while on active duty are eligible for burial in any national cemetery or at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. If survivors prefer burial to take place at a private or local cemetery, their casualty assistance officer will help. The government will reimburse up to $6,900 in burial expenses and assumes the cost for transporting the remains to the burial location.

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3. Monthly payments.
Basic benefits under the dependency and compensation program for a surviving spouse are $1,033 per month. There is an additional $247 benefit for each child under 18 or up to age 23 if studying at a VA-approved educational institution. For two years after the death of the service member, a spouse with at least one dependent child under 18 gets an additional $250 per month.

Social Security makes a one-time payment of $255 to the surviving spouse. Spouses or divorced spouses of deceased service members that have children under the age of 16 qualify for monthly benefits with the amount to be determined by the Social Security Administration. In addition, surviving spouses get Social Security benefits based on their service member's Social Security wage history.

You must apply for both VA and Social Security benefits, which might be influenced if you remarry. Survivor benefits might be available to parents of those killed on active duty, especially if they are low-income. For more information, see www.vba.va.gov.

4. Education benefits.
Educational benefits are available to both a surviving spouse and children. For spouses, benefits are available for 45 months of education or training, and spouses who have not remarried remain eligible for 20 years. Children are eligible from the ages of 18 to 26. For those attending school full time for a variety of programs, the benefit rate is $803 per month; less for part-time attendance. More information is available at www.gibill.va.gov. If your deceased relative participated in the Montgomery GI Bill education program, you're eligible for a refund of payroll deductions that were not used toward educational purposes.

5. Health insurance.
TRICARE is the military's health insurance program. Survivors are covered by TRICARE under several different categories. For three years after the death of a service member on active duty, survivors receive benefits given to active duty family members; after three years, you get benefits equal to retiree family members.

Benefits include dental, prescription drug coverage and mental health services. Details about applying for benefits, frequently asked questions and fact sheets can be found at www.tricare.osd.mil.

6. Other.
Many other benefits are available, including housing and relocation, pay for unused leave, tax benefits, commissary and exchange privileges, and recovery of the service members' belongings.

Survivors may remain in base housing for a year after the death of their service member and will receive housing allowance benefits for that term even if they choose to move. In addition, surviving spouses may be eligible for VA Home Loans. For more information, see www.vba.va.gov.

Survivors are exempt from paying taxes the year that their service member died. In addition, VA benefits are tax-exempt. Children and widows/widowers who haven't remarried can continue to use military commissary and exchange facilities, which provide savings on many grocery and other items. The military pays any salary and unused benefits to the survivors and will also transport belongings back to survivors.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Sept. 26, 2006
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