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Gold Star Family Benefits: The Veterans Guide

Gold Star Family Benefits: The Veterans Guide

Though the US military tries hard to ensure that every Veteran returns home safely, some Veterans fall in combat. For their families, the struggle to reclaim their lives, stabilize their finances, and decide what to do next can be difficult and feel impossible.

The military provides Gold Star Families with benefits and resources they can and should receive. In times of grief, knowing what resources you can access and how to utilize them best can be difficult. Read on for more information about the benefits that Gold Star Families may be eligible to receive.

What Is a Gold Star Family?

A Gold Star Family includes any immediate family members of a fallen servicemember who died while serving in any time of conflict. Immediate family members include:

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Immediate siblings
  • Mothers and fathers

For example, if a Veteran is deployed in a combat zone and dies in battle, their immediate family members become part of a Gold Star Family. However, a Veteran must die in conflict or in a conflict zone for their family to qualify for Gold Star Family benefits. 

For instance, if a Veteran is killed while on a US base on continental soil and not in combat, their family may not be eligible for benefits.

Being a Gold Star Family is an immense honor that no one wants. Gold Star Families can legally display a Gold Star Service Flag for their servicemembers who were killed or died in the line of duty. Furthermore, Gold Star Families can take advantage of numerous support resources and other benefits.

How Does the Military Support Gold Star Families?

In the immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one, things are difficult for the survivors. Because of this, the US military and the Department of Veterans Affairs provide various family support resources.

Casualty Assistance

Firstly, the Department of Defense (DOD) maintains a Casualty Assistance Program. This ensures that military families have support. Some of these benefits include:

  • Casualty assistance available to the primary next of kin (i.e., the person who is most closely related to the fallen servicemember, such as a spouse or parents)
  • Compassionate help for families of servicemembers, including transportation and burial expense coverage, benefits and entitlements, legal matters and relocation assistance, and emotional and spiritual support

Each family is assigned a casualty assistance officer to accomplish these support goals. They help the family indefinitely or until the family decides the assistance is no longer needed.

If your original case officer retires or can no longer offer their services, your family will receive a new case officer once you do not need their help. You can also dismiss the case officer or request a new one anytime.

Long-Term Family Support

Even after a Gold Star Family’s casualty assistance officer is released from their case, they still have long-term family support resources to keep in mind.

For example, families can and should take advantage of long-term case management programs. These provide access to counselors and case managers to help in the years following a servicemember’s death and burial.

Gold Star Families may use grief counseling, support groups, milestone management, and financial counseling programs. This can assist families that need to stabilize their finances, especially if the fallen servicemember was the primary earner for the family.

Each military branch, including the Coast Guard, has a distinct long-term case management program. Your casualty assistance officer should tell you more about contacting your long-term case management program based on the branch of your fallen servicemember.

The Online Survivor Benefits Report

Many Gold Star Family members may need to know the exact benefits they can access. Check out the online survivor benefits report if you’re in this group. This allows you to view both your current and estimated future benefits, allowing you to forecast your financial future and decide your next steps for the betterment of yourself and your entire family.

What Gold Star Family Benefits Are Available?

All Gold Star Families can access the following benefits:

  • Tax benefits to surviving family members via the HEART Act or the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008
  • Additional life insurance and vesting in retirement plan benefits
  • Funeral and burial entitlements 
  • Death gratuity benefit. This is a one-time, lump-sum payment to the DOD to beneficiaries listed on a servicemember’s DD Form 93. The death gratuity is $100,000 and is completely tax-exempt
  • Life insurance, group life insurance, and traumatic injury protection benefits
  • Beneficiary financial counseling services. These are free services offered to the family members of fallen military personnel. These services are especially important if a fallen servicemember was the primary or sole earner for their family
  • The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). Surviving children or spouses of servicemembers who perish in the line of duty might receive SBP payments, which are monthly death benefits provided at no cost
  • Dependency and indemnity compensation, which is paid out to survivors of active duty servicemembers as a flat monthly payment independent of the fallen Veteran’s original pay grade
  • Further benefits from the Social Security Administration, including monthly Social Security payments made to a spouse or divorced spouse with children of the deceased servicemember until the children are 16
  • Education benefits, such as the Montgomery G.I. Bill, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and more
  • Access to VA home loans. This benefit is available to any surviving spouses who have not remarried. VA-backed home loans may help the survivors of fallen Veterans build, improve, purchase, or refinance a home
  • Continuation of TRICARE benefits for up to three years post the death of a fallen servicemember
  • Eligibility to continue shopping at the exchange and commissary indefinitely unless the surviving spouse remarries

Do These Benefits Ever Expire?

These benefits often apply to everyone in the fallen servicemember’s immediate family circle. However, note that many benefits affecting the children or dependents of deceased servicemembers stop when the children reach a certain age.

Since you may have many questions about these benefits, contacting Veterans law attorneys at the earliest opportunity is a good idea. You may also ask questions of your casualty assistance officer, who can detail these programs and help you determine which programs you qualify for or should utilize.

How Can Veterans Law Attorneys Help

Gold Star Family benefits are numerous. Knowing which programs you should access or join and how to claim these financial benefits can take time and effort. Veterans law attorneys can provide invaluable assistance during this process.

For example, when you contact Berry Law, our attorneys can break down the Gold Star Family benefits you can access immediately. We can also explain more about individual programs or benefits, so you know which ones to prioritize as you set your finances in order.

If you have many questions, consider consulting with your casualty assistance officer and Veterans law attorneys. Between both entities, you’ll have all your questions answered.

Contact Berry Law

Gold Star Family benefits are available to the immediate family members of all fallen servicemembers who died while serving in conflict. These numerous benefits are intended to support those families as they recover financially and emotionally.

If you recently lost a Veteran, you may qualify for these benefits and much more. Veterans law attorneys like Berry Law can help you determine what you qualify for and help you apply for needed benefits, like funeral assistance, financial aid, and more.

Contact us today to see how we can assist you during this trying time.

Sources:

Gold Star Survivors | The United States Army

Casualty and Survivor Assistance | The Official Army Benefits Website

Resources for Gold Star & Surviving Family Members | Military OneSource

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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