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Surviving Spouse Info


Berta
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Question

How to prepare for what your surviving spouse will need to deal with when you die.

I have been widowed twice, and both men were disabled veterans.

The shock and grief of death is often compounded by many well wishers who might call or stop over to comfort a surviving spouse, as soon as they hear of the death, while at the same time, there are many many things that a survivor has to do –sometimes right away and sometimes best to do alone-

It is important to have a Death File- a file that contains information that can help your survivors. This goes for even civilians like me and preparing my Death File has given me peace of mind. The info below is the stuff that should be in your death file or whatever you want to call it:

1.The most important first step is to clearly state whether you want to be an organ donor or not- in your lifetime to you family. Or-you can leave this decision up to your spouse-but that phone call for the Organ Harvest people comes within hours of death so best they have some idea of what to do there.

Here in NY and I think all states, upon receipt of harvested organs, the Medical Examiner’s autopsy is free. An Autopsy can mean the difference between DIC and no chance of DIC for your spouse.Not all coroners list all contributing death afactors on death certificates, they never list PTSD as far as I know, and an autopsy could potentially reveal that a service connected condition, not on the death certificate, did contribute to or cause your death.

2.The next step-after you or the spouse has decided whether to donate your organs, is to consider that cremation is the usual next step in most types of major organ harvests.

Cremation is by far cheaper than a casket etc.

If the vet is buried in a National Veteran’s Cemetery, and in the cremains section, and the spouse wishes to be buried there too, the spouse also must follow through on cremation for their own body so that the spousal cremains can fit on top of the veterans cremains. The VA will remove the veteran’s headstone and then carve into the back of it the information on the spouse who is also buried there.

3. The Funeral Director- they will prepare the Newspaper obituary.But I did this myself. I wanted to make sure everything was in it- Rod’s 2 Honorable periods of service, the fact he was service connected, and also I listed every decoration or award he got .I gave the Funeral Director copy of his DD214s and DD 215 and I am sure he also verified this info with the VA. They can do that right away. Your DD 214s and DD 215 if applicable should definitely be in this file. Your spouse will need more then one copy of them. Also I included all veteran’s organizations he belonged to.This would be good idea to make a list of too for the spouse to put into the obit.

4. If you wish to be buried in a National Veterans Cemetery, and are eligible for Color Guard ,Taps and also the 21 gun ceremony-your spouse must

tell the funeral director, who will arrange this. I just checked with the Director of the Bath VA Cemetery who said a Military funeral can be done at ANY cemetery or even at the funeral home itself.

Neither the VA Cemetery Services nor the VA Chaplain’s office will do this for you ,if your wish is to be interred at a National Veterans Cemetery or have military honors elsewhere.I strongly suggest, since this is new information that I did not receive from any funeral director in the past (they are supposed to ask if a Military Funeral is being requested)-- that the surviving spouse or next of kin check and then double check with them-the funeral director- and even the American Legion or whoever is doing the Honor Guard to make sure that a proper military funeral transpires.

5. The VA and the Social Security Administration (if the vet was getting any form of SSA) Must be called immediately to report the veteran’s death.

6. In addition to your DD 214, put a copy of VA form 21-534 in the file-it is quite a lengthy form but a copy will give your wife a leg up on filling it out, even before she finds a vet rep to help her with it.

7.Also put your VA Compensation Award letter, and SSA award letter in there, and Marriage License, Birth Certificates of family, and attach a note telling your spouse to get at least 6 raised Certified Copies of the Death Certificate after your demise. He or she might need more but they are expensive. They can be obtained usually through the county Surrogate’s Office when they are recorded there.

8. Make sure the spouse can find in the file all of your insurance policies.This could be VA Insurance, Private Life Insurance you might have, and also even credit account insurance. Private Life Insurance companies usually pay out with 10 days upon receipt of the policy and a certified death certificate.

9. Make a list of all of your PC passwords and what they are for- the spouse might need them for all sorts of reasons-like if you pay some of your bills on line or have password access to any personal bank accounts or investment accounts which the spouse probably has but still a list is good to have.

10. The Will-and DNR, and Health Care Proxy-make sure these documents are in the file you are preparing.

11. Make sure the file contains any info at all on any pending VA claims you have, that could still be pending at time of your death. Your spouse will have to formally re-open these claims as well as separately apply for DIC. He or she should know that the VA will not pay accrued benefits on any pending claim you had, unless the DIC application is received by the VA within one year after death.

12. If you are an Agent Orange veteran and there is a possibility your death will be due to any Agent Orange condition-and you have an Agent Orange claim pending, make sure you make a note stating that your spouse, if he or she re-opens this claim upon your death, also advises VA the contact info on next of kin in event of the surviving spouse’s death when they re-open this claim.

The Nehmer Court Order and Stipulation provides that VA, upon award of retroactive AO compensation, if there is by then ,even no surviving spouse, then the VA will seek the next of kin for proper payment of this retro.

Basically Nehmer –for all claims who fall under the Neher provisions-provides that a retro AO award usually will have to be paid to Someone-the VA cannot simply keep this money if the surviving spouse is also deceased. ANy vet reo helping a survivor can access the Nehmer Decision and the pay out stipulation at NVLSP web site.

If I think of more I will add.

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sorry for double posts -I hope we can find this in the search feature now-

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Thanks Berta you are a peach

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Hope you don't mind if I add a few thoughts. (orignally wrote this for Marine Recon 67, but thought better placed here), Berta you are awesome and precious!

I've heard Vso's caution veterans and their widows that DIC is income based so not everyone gets it. I dont know the ceilings though. My experience was much different than Bertas and now have kiddos to consider.

If you have a trusted VSO or preferred veterans organization leave their information for your family to contact them immediatly for assistance - Widow(er)s and their families have priority. (trust me if I know, I make it so). As much as the widow(er) would like to attend to this alone, please buck up and find someone to trust and take along, take notes in a spiral notebook.

Keep a spiral notebook active, dates, names, telephone numbers and addresses and statements.

Before signing anything with a veterans information on it, have a minimum 24 hour waiting period to 'think about it'. The fine print is there for a reason and rarely on behalf of the veteran or their family. I am thinking insurance, mortgages, leins and taxes. The details are updated constantly for the businesses, but the family is usually the last to know. Again, a spiral notebook keeps the notes and questions all together. If someone is going to make a deal or change something, make sure to get the 'deal' or 'change' in writing. Doesn't mean the family is ignorant, just maybe preoccupied with emotion.

Almost every base or post has a retiree office that can be of assistance, although they are run on a volunteer staff.

Keep a list of offices and telephone numbers current for veteran affairs, health care, doctor and pharmacies. Collect information as soon as possible because records are often retired after someone passes on.

Cancel mailorder prescriptions as soon as possible.

If someone offers their help in anything needed, have them keep a watch on the house, check mail, mow the yard or clear snow; tend to animals? When people offer, they are usually sincere and just want to connect. Maybe a neice to make sure the honor guard has their needs met, food, drink and other. Keep names for thank you's later. Once, close freinds offered to 'serve' a calming meal for my family at their home two days before the service. What a blessing to 'just be' for a few hours, I'll never forget their kindness.

Almost immediately have someone help the widow get a few more copies of the wedding certificate and veterans birth certificate. I can hardly tell you how often these things are used and also misplaced during trying times.

Check the utility and loan companies to make sure whose name is the primary on the account. This could cause problems faster than one can think.(Think telephone, electricity, gas, automobile, insurance, etc). If the accounts are changed, consider using only initials J. Jones rather than Jacquie Jones.

Have a second set of eyes to make sure the death certificate reads correctly, dates, cause, full name, birthdate, service dates, autopsy 'SERVICE DISABILITY CONNECTION" and such. My personal experience is that the bereaved sometimes cannot see 'clearly' to double check it precisely. The funeral home usually prepares the certificate and once done, even so it takes a few weeks to be certified. Then its time to review once again before ordering several certified copies, they do cost. (On a relatives certificate the military information was wrong; entering and leaving the military on the same day, even though the length of service was over two years!)

Think about a simple will, kits are available at nearly every bookstore. I think theres a way to include a dollar for 'shirt tail' or 'those' relatives if there are any concerns. Basically it is a statement that covers the possiblility of a unknown offspring or a strange brotherinlaw challenging anything. Also if a will is set, less likely the state will get anything. Notary republic for the signatures works if I recall.

Its so good today many people are specifying what their wishes are in advance. The details are cumbersome enough for the family than to try to appease the inlaws, Aunt Gertrude and Brother Samuel.

Be careful about the veteran wanting to be buried in uniform (sizes change over the years) and the ribbons may not be easily found.

If the veteran wants a military biography presented, consider identifying the installation country or state, Fort Bragg, Wheeler AFB and Sault Ste Marie, Patuxent River or MARFOREUR?. It may not mean much at the time, but most services have this as printed information and that type information may help if a claim is still being worked. Got a sister who still thinks military doesn't pay taxes and a sister who helped me support a claim with a letter written to her 'from that base in Timbuktu. USA', it helped her recall where the letter was. (the base name meant nothing to her).

If nothing else, please Veteran let your immediate family know where your DD 214 is! I've been to more than a few funerals, its seeing widows aggravated at having had to struggle through all the white paper stacks, folders or old military records or awards to find the DD 214.

Yes, I have a 'just in case notebook' that I am working on. Ok, its not done, but it is a work in progress!

Best to ya,

Cg'up2009!

Edited by cowgirl
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GREAT info COWGIRL!

You are a BUSHEL of peaches!!!

These NSOs and reps often dont have a clue on DIC claims.

There are no income limits nor asset/financial limits at all for receipt of DIC.

My FTCA settlement was a legal offset situation- the VA has to refund it when my AO claim succeeds-

I hope I didnt give wrong impression here.

However the death pension for widows is income limited.

I hesitate to add-but death sometimes brings out the worst in people- and there are people out there who see an advantageous situation when a spouse has died.

Something to watch out for.

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A list of who to notify is good too.

I was so overwhelmed - and contacted who I could - and asked them to contact others - but I know that many people never got notified. Yet there were a few people that came to the funeral from a couple of states away - that had served with my husband at some time - and they shared there stories - and we were so blessed to have them there. I was so touched that they got the news in the morning - hopped in their car and headed to honor my husband.

Free

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