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Airmen to have more choices for death gratuity benefit

6/25/2008 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Airmen will be able to select one or more persons of their choosing to receive death gratuity benefits beginning July 1.

"This is a significant change to the (death gratuity) benefits election option for all Airmen," said Steven Kelley, the director of Air and Space Expeditionary Force Operations at the Air Force Personnel Center here.

Prior to the change in law, payments were restricted to the spouse, then children if applicable and then to a family member as elected by the Airman. It didn't allow a married Airman to leave the death gratuity to anyone else.

"Since the amount of death gratuity increased to $100,000, payment to minor children requires guardianship over the child's estate and can be a lengthy and costly process depending upon the state in which the child resides," Mr. Kelley said. "This change provides more flexibility to the servicemember in designating the gratuity benefit. "

Beginning July 1, Airmen will be able to select persons to receive death benefits in increments of 10 percent. For example, an Airman will be able to choose 20 percent to a cousin, 10 percent to a friend and the remaining 70 percent to a spouse for a total of 100 percent. The death gratuity designation will no longer be restricted to a spouse, child or blood relative.

To implement this change, AFPC officials will update the vREDs of members who are married and/or have dependent children to reflect a "by law" designation on July 1. "By law" means that 100 percent of the death gratuity payment is paid in the following order of precedence: Surviving spouse, surviving children in equal amounts, descendents of any deceased children in equal amounts, executor or administrator of the servicemember's estate or Airman's other next of kin under the laws of domicile at the time of death.

Airmen who would like to designate a specific beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries by name must access the virtual Military Personnel Flight on or after July 1 to provide the information on their beneficiaries.

An unmarried Airman with children will be able to designate a person of his choice, such as a parent or other person to receive the death gratuity directly thus eliminating the need to be a court-appointed guardian over the minor child's estate. However, the member still has the responsibility to ensure their wishes are followed through a will or trust. Married Airmen may elect to leave less than 100 percent of the death gratuity to the spouse. The law; however, requires the spouse be notified in writing when such as election is made. The letter will be sent from the AFPC Contact Center whenever such an election occurs and will not disclose any percentages, or identify any additional beneficiaries.

Because of the changes, AFPC officials recommend every Airman go into vMPF after July 1 and review the vRED. Once the vRED is reviewed, the Airman will need to submit the vRED to AFPC, even if there are not any changes, to change the date on the vRED and to show their vRED reflects their proper beneficiaries.

Contact the AFPC Contact Center at 800-616-3775 for additional information.

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