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Surviving Spouse Info

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Berta

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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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BTW-my husband had a Military Funeral with the Color Guard etc- but

I am having trouble finding out what the specific requirements would be for this type of funeral.

will post what I find-

One of the vet's from the VA took many pictures for me at the funeral service at the Bath VA.

I wrote part of the Chapel service myself and 2 VA veteran who were patients at the same VA did the singing.

It was a wonderful and a fitting ceremony for my husband who joined his comrades in his death.

The undertaker even granted my wish for some of his ashes.

Some of them I scattered on our farm and the rest of the portion I got are under my bed.

The only thing missing for him is true Peace with Honor-the purpose of my AO claim.

Also I forgot- it is good to add to the file a list of all of the friends and relatives with their contact numbers.

Sometimes we keep phone numbers in our heads thinking we dont need to put them down somewhere or we might not even know the phone numbers of friends that a deceased veteran had.I found my husband's small book of phone numbers -good thing-his best friend -another Vietnam Vet had an unlisted number and I knew him but had never called him personally.

Also save the deceased vet's driver's license.

This became instrumental in my DIC claim as evidence.

and it is probative to my present claim.

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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.

Thanks Berta,

You're the best. I'll get right to this and if you come up with anymore please post same.Thanks a bunch.

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