Deployed Civilians Death Benefits

A surviving spouse should file a claim for ongoing benefits with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) using “Claim for Compensation by Widow, Widower, and/or Children (CA-5) form.

Ongoing Monthly Benefits from OWCP

If a claim is accepted by OWCP, the spouse will receive monthly compensation payments in an amount equal to 50% of the deceased employee’s salary at the time of death; if there are dependent children, the surviving spouse may receive 45% of salary plus an additional 15% for each child, up to a total of 75% of salary. There are also additional benefits payable to dependent children with no parents, or to other dependent family members such as parents or grandparents, so long as the total amount payable does not exceed 75% of salary. If the employee was covered under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Foreign Service Pension System (FSPS) and survivors receive Social Security benefits based on the deceased's Federal employment, FECA benefits are reduced by the amount of the Social Security benefits attributable to Federal service. Spousal benefits are payable for life or until remarriage if before age 55; benefits for dependent children continue until they turn 18, or up to age 23 if they are in a full-time undergraduate program. These periodic benefits are not subject to Federal or state income tax.

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Additional death benefits under FECA that are payable include $800 for funeral and burial expenses and $200 for reimbursement of costs of the termination of status as a Federal employee, as well as the costs of transporting the body from the place of death to the place of burial, if the death occurred while the employee was away from his or her duty station.

$10,000 - Death Gratuity Payment

If an employee's death results from a traumatic injury sustained in the line of duty on or after August 2, 1990, a death gratuity payment may be paid to the personal representative of the employee. This includes an employee who dies after separation from employment, if the death is the result of traumatic injury sustained in the line of duty. The death gratuity is intended to help families meet their needs such as means to cover funeral expenses and begin to lead a financially secure life. Public Law 104-208. For further guidance, see New Death Gratuity Payment Authority The personal representative of the deceased employee is generally eligible to apply for the payment. That individual is the formally designated executor or administrator of the employee's estate under state law. In many situations, however, this will be the primary individual to whom the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) pays survivor benefits.

The gratuity is $10,000 minus the $800 (for funeral and burial expenses) and $200 (for costs associated with the termination of employee status) paid by OWCP. The death gratuity is payable by the agency, however, only when OWCP has approved the death claim.

Either the survivors or the personal representative of the deceased employee may contact the local Human Resources office to apply for payment of the death gratuity. If OWCP has paid both the amounts above, the remaining gratuity payment will be $9,000.

At the time the death gratuity is paid, no Federal taxes will be withheld. However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has ruled that the $10,000 death gratuity payment is fully subject to Federal income tax if the death occurred on or after 20 Aug 96 (and not excluded under section 101(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, because it was repealed for persons dying on or after 20 Aug 96 by section 1402 of Public Law 104-188). IRS Form 1099R will be prepared and forwarded to the personal representative when the gratuity is paid.

$100,000 - Death Gratuity Payment

For civilian employees who die of injuries incurred in connection with the employee's service with an Armed Force in a contingency operation (including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan), Public Law 110-181, Section 1105, authorizes a death gratuity payment of up to $100,000 to the survivors of an employee. This gratuity is payable by OWCP as a death benefit under the FECA. Because of the unique order of payment precedence set out in this law, one which permits this gratuity to be paid to individual(s) designated by the employee who may be neither life insurance beneficiaries nor eligible for FECA death benefits, OWCP has created a form which should be given to all DOD civilians before they are deployed in a contingency zone of operations. OWCP generally requires that the form be signed, prior to the date of death of the employee, by both the employee and an employing agency representative before it will be recognized as valid. Once the form is signed, it should be retained by the agency in case of the death of the employee. Death Gratuity Forms & Guidance

DOD Memorandum, May 20, 2008, Subject: New Death Gratuity For Deployed Civilians

Certain death gratuity payments will offset the $100,000 death gratuity payable under this Act, including the $10,000 death gratuity noted above, and the $800 for burial expenses and $200 for costs associated with termination of the employment status of the deceased employee, but not the periodic benefits payable to surviving dependents under FECA. The death gratuity payable under P.L. 109-234, which authorizes DOD to pay beneficiaries a benefit equivalent to one year’s salary for deaths occurring during official duty in Iraq or Afghanistan during fiscal years 2006 – 2008, and was later extended to cover deaths through fiscal year 2011, is also a dual benefit with the $100,000, and the recipient must elect one benefit or the other.

Department of Defense
Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service
HR Operational Programs & Advisory Services
Benefits and Worklife Division
Injury Compensation & Unemployment Compensation Branch
4800 Mark Center Drive, Suite 05G21
Alexandria, VA 22350-1100

Commercial Phone: (571) 372-1663
FAX: (571) 372-1662
DSN Phone: 372-1663
DSN FAX: 372-1662

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