Commissary, Exchange and MWR Facilities

The death of your loved one does not end your rights to certain service benefits and privileges. Dependants may use the installation theater and some other Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facilities. Dependants are eligible to continue shopping at the exchange and commissary as long as they maintain an active DoD ID card. Unmarried children of the deceased service member may use these privileges until they are 21, or 23 if enrolled in a full-time course of study in a secondary school or in a full-time course of study in an institution of higher education.

Legal Assistance

Should you need legal advice on benefits, entitlements, insurance, taxation, or other matters, military legal assistance may be available to you. Legal services are available on all military installations, and your casualty assistance officer can help arrange for an office visit or a phone conversation with a legal expert, if you are not near an installation.  (this benefit applies to Spouses)

ID Card

In order to use the services you are entitled to, you must identify yourself as the dependent of a deceased service member; however, you will need a new ID card. The casualty assistance office can help you with this.  To locate the nearest military ID card facility, visit the Defense Manpower Data Center website at

Posthumous Citizenship

This is an honorary status commemorating the bravery and sacrifices of these deceased service members. It does not convey any uniformed services benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act to any relative of the deceased service member.

Section 329A of the INA provides for grants of posthumous citizenship to certain members of the U.S. military services. Other provisions of law extend benefits to surviving spouses, children, and parents. A member of the U.S. military services who served honorably during a designated period of hostilities and dies as a result of injury or disease incurred in, or aggravated by, that service (including death in combat), may receive posthumous citizenship.

The service member’s next of kin, the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary’s designee in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services must make this request for posthumous citizenship within two years of the service member’s death.

Under section 319(d) of the INA, a surviving spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen, who dies while serving honorably in active-duty status in the U.S. military services, can file for naturalization if the family member meets naturalization requirements other than residency and physical presence.

For other immigration purposes, a surviving spouse (unless he or she remarries), child or parent of a member of the U.S. military services who served honorably on active duty and died as a result of combat, and was a citizen at the time of death (including a posthumous grant of citizenship), is considered an immediate relative for two years after the service member dies and may file a petition for classification as an immediate relative during such period.

Additional information and assistance can be obtained by calling the USCIS military help line at 877-247-4645, or by visiting the USCIS website at

Income Taxes

The Primary Next of Kin is responsible for the deceased Sailor’s last tax return. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) issues a W-2 for deceased service members who had income during the tax year. The W-2 will be sent to the address on record for the service member after January 1 of the year following the member’s death. If the address on record is incorrect and the W-2 cannot be delivered, or if the document is lost, you can request a reprint by calling DFAS (Cleveland) at 1-888-332-7411. Phone tree prompts are 4, 2, 4, then select the branch of service, then 1 and 1. For questions please contact your Navy Gold Star Coordinator.

For information and guidance concerning your income tax status as a survivor of a service member, you can contact the nearest office of the Internal Revenue Service. For income tax purposes, Social Security benefits, the death gratuity payment, the Basic Allowance for Housing benefit, burial benefits, VA pension and compensation payment, property, and the face amount of all life insurance policies are excluded from gross income.

Combat Zone Tax Liability Forgiveness

If a member of the U.S. military services dies while in active service in a combat zone or from injury or disease received in a combat zone, the decedent’s income tax liability is forgiven for the tax year in which the death occurred and for an earlier tax year ending on or after the first day the member served in a combat zone in active service. Forgiven tax is tax that does not have to be paid. Any forgiven tax liability that has already been paid will be refunded, and any tax liability at the date of death will be forgiven.

In addition, any unpaid taxes for prior years will be forgiven and any prior year taxes paid after the date of death will be refunded. This provision also applies to members of the military services serving outside the combat zone, if the service was in direct support of military operations in the zone and qualified the member for military pay for duty subject to hostile fire or imminent danger.

Contributions of Military Death Gratuities to Roth IRAs and Education Savings Accounts

The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-245, §109) allows a beneficiary of a $100,000 death gratuity or an SGLI payment to contribute all or part of the gratuity or payment to a Roth IRA or an education savings account. The account must be created within one year following receipt of the payment, and the normal rules limiting contributions to Roth IRAs and education savings accounts do not apply. For more information on this topic, please contact your local legal assistance office.

Homeowners Assistance Program

The Homeowners Assistance Program is a program authorized by law and administered by the Army Corps of Engineers to assist eligible homeowners facing financial loss when selling their primary residence homes in areas where real estate values have declined because of an installation closure or realignment announcement. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 temporarily expanded the HAP to financially assist surviving spouses of service members who are killed in the line of duty or who died of wounds incurred while in the line of duty.

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