The military continues to provide support and benefits to service members and their families even after retirement. When a retired service member dies, some military pay and benefits end. The military does provide a variety of benefits and compensation to help the surviving spouse through the difficult times following the death of a spouse.
When a retired service member dies, his pay stops immediately. The Survivor Benefit Plan will help to replace retirement pay for the surviving spouse. While on active duty the service member automatically receives this benefit free of charge, but when he retires, he must begin paying premiums to maintain this benefit for his spouse. The Survivor Benefit Plan pays the spouse 55 percent of the service members retirement pay for the rest of her life.
Service members may be eligible for burial in a National cemetery. If the spouse chooses this option, the spouse is not charged for the plot and burial expenses. Alternatively, the spouse may choose to have the service member buried in a private cemetery. If the service member was discharged due to a service-related disability or was eligible to receive pension or compensation, the VA will provide $300 for burial expenses and $300 as a plot allowance for private burial. Regardless of where the service member is buried, the Department of Veterans Affairs will also provide a headstone or marker, military honors and a burial flag upon request.
If the service member enrolled her spouse in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) prior to her death, the surviving spouse continues to be eligible for health benefits through TRICARE. The spouse will continue to pay his share of medical costs and any required premiums for coverage. If the service member died due to a service-related disability, the surviving spouse is eligible for health coverage under the Department of Veterans Affairs Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA). Eligibility for both CHAMPVA and TRICARE will end if the spouse re-marries under the age of 55.
Benefits for Service-Related Deaths
If the service member died from a service-related disability, the spouse is also eligible to receive Dependent and Indemnity Compensation. As of 2011, this benefit pays $1,154 per month to the surviving spouse. A monthly death pension may also be available to spouses with low-income if the service member served active-duty during war time or had a service-related disability and was not dishonorably discharged.