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DOD civilian casualty benefits

Proper administration can help ease pain for loved ones when civilians die

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:09PM November 7th, 2013

Casualty assistance services famously take over when military members lose their lives, performing professionally on behalf of grieving family members. The benefits for DOD civilian employees are also readily available, but require federal employees to ensure their administrative information is in order in the event of their unexpected passing.

Current federal civilian employees need to remember to update their official personnel file beneficiary forms in the event of a major life change like marriage or divorce, said Aurora de la Torre, a human resources specialist at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Civilian Personnel Advisory Center.

The completed forms make it easier for the Army Benefits Center to avoid disputes regarding payouts of life insurance, retirement benefits and Thrift Savings Plan contributions in the event of a civilian employee’s unexpected death.

According to de la Torre, federal law mandates a percentage of retirement plan and TSP payouts must go to an employee’s next of kin, a spouse or child. But the remaining portion, plus disbursements of life insurance and final pay, should have designees.

“The employee can designate whoever they want to,” de la Torre said. “People who have a more complicated life may want to identify how they want the entitlements disbursed so their wishes can be fulfilled.”

Upon a civilian employee’s sudden death, the employee’s supervisor initiates notification to the employee’s family or next of kin, which de la Torre said is another important piece of information that should be updated in a civilian employee’s personnel file. The director must also report the death to the Army Benefits Center, but must have the name of the employee’s next of kin in order to do so. The Army Benefits Center is responsible for death entitlements, and old or missing information could delay those payments, de la Torre said.

Within 24 hours of an employee’s death, the JBLM CPAC office mails a letter of condolence to the employee’s next of kin stating the death has been reported to the Army Benefits Center and an agency representative will be in contact. The Army Benefits Center, located at Fort Riley, Kan., then assigns a counselor to sort out the entitlements. This is where those updated beneficiary forms come in handy, de la Torre said.

The civilian employee’s next of kin communicates directly with the Army Benefits Center regarding benefits payouts, but the JBLM CPAC office can provide assistance in filling out forms related to the payout process.

“We can explain the forms and ensure they fill it out properly and put it in the right envelope so it gets mailed back to the proper location,” de la Torre said.

Deaths of retired federal civilian employees should be reported to the Office of Personnel Management. JBLM’s CPAC office does not have access to retiree records, but will still provide assistance with paperwork, de la Torre said.

Current federal civilian employees can go to to find the beneficiary forms. Click on “Forms,” then “Beneficiaries.” All benefits forms require an original signature and the signatures of two witnesses, so employees must print the forms in order to fill them out. Employees can then deliver the forms to JBLM’s CPAC, located at the corner of 4th Street and Pendleton Avenue on Lewis Main.

For more information, call 253-967-5070.