Benefit Fact Sheet
The Department of Defense provides a one-time lump sum Death Gratuity of $100,000 to the primary next of kin of a Service member who dies while on active duty. Its purpose is to help the survivors in their readjustment and to aid them in meeting immediate expenses incurred. The gratuity is paid by the last military command of the deceased.
A Service member can designate up to ten individuals, without regard to relationship, and allocate amounts in ten-percent increments to each designated individual listed. If the member does not wish to designate a beneficiary for the payment of death gratuity, enter "None," or if the full amount is not designated, the payment or balance will be paid as follows:
To the lawful surviving Spouse of the Service member, if any
If there is no surviving Spouse, to any surviving Children of the Service member
If there is none of the above, to the surviving parents of the Service member
If there is none of the above, to the duly appointed executor or administrator of the estate of the Service member
If there is none of the above, to other next of kin of the Service member entitled under the laws of domicile of the Service member at the time of the Service member's death
Note: If the retiree dies within 120 days of separation their beneficiary may be entitled to the Death Gratuity if VA finds their death service connected. DFAS will then pay the Death Gratuity out to the beneficiary.
Application for the gratuity is made through the appointed Casualty Assistance Officer representing the next of kin. The claim form required to apply for this benefit is DD Form 397, Claim Certification and Voucher for Death Gratuity Payment. Payment is paid as expeditiously as possible.
The gratuity is paid free of any federal or state income tax liability
Only one gratuity payment is authorized to the designated next of kin
The gratuity cannot be designated for payment to the estate of the deceased
For more information, please visit:
Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Compensation website:
Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Arrears of Pay:
Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division (CMAOD)Survivor Resources Frequently Asked Questions: