Government Death Benefits

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In the United States, the average cost of a funeral is rising. Death is hard enough on survivors, who are then left with a hefty bill to cover everything from the cost of a burial plot to the cost of a casket. With funeral homes charging thousands of dollars for their services alone, the bills can add up fast. The federal government offers various benefits to survivors of government workers and veterans, which may be used to cover such costs and ease the pain of losing a loved one.

1 Social Security Death Benefits

The Social Security Administration provides assistance to survivors of an eligible beneficiary by means of a one-time “lump sum death benefit.” As of 2010, this payment is $255. Workers must pay into social security and work a certain number of quarters to be eligible; the amount of money needed to earn credits rises each year. The younger a person is at the time of his death, the fewer credits he needs to be eligible for benefits. Currently, up to 10 years of work are required to receive benefits. The payment may only be made to a spouse or child, and the spouse must have lived with the beneficiary at the time of his death. The Social Security Administration also has other death benefits available to survivors of eligible beneficiaries.

2 Veterans Affairs Death Benefits

Survivors of veterans who were receiving a pension or other compensation for military service, were in a veterans hospital, or were indigent at the time of death may qualify for death benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Survivor Benefit Plan includes money to be used for funeral expenses. As of 2010, a sum of $300 is given to a surviving spouse or child, with an added $150 given for a plot allowance. If the death was a direct result of injuries sustained while in service, the eligible survivor could receive up to $1,100 monthly. Contact the Veterans Benefits Counselor at the nearest VA office for information on these benefits.

3 Civil Service Retirement Service Death Benefits

After completing 18 months of civilian service, a worker is eligible for death benefits under the Civil Service Retirement Service. Workers must have been employed subject to the Civil Service Retirement System and must have been married to the surviving spouse for at least 9 months. Benefits include annual payments of 55% of the amount the worker would have received if she had retired at the time of her death or the lesser of either a) 22% of the average of the highest 3 annual salaries earned, referred to as the “High 3,” or b) 55% of the amount the worker would have earned had she continued working until age 60 years at the same “High 3” amount.

These benefits begin the day after death and end at the end of the month in which the survivor dies or remarries before the age of 55 years. Numerous factors determine eligibility for, and limit receipt of, Civil Service death benefits. These factors include whether or not the worker received military retired pay or whether or not a lump sum payment is available.

Joshua Wade has been a freelance writer since 2006. Wade's poetry and short fiction have appeared in "The Frequent and Vigorous Quarterly" and "The Litter Box Magazine." He has also written for various online publications. Wade attended West Virginia University where he studied English and creative writing.