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When A Military Retiree Dies – What to Know? What to Do?  

We know it’s difficult for anyone to think about their own death. But, we also know you want to prepare and take care of your loved ones.
We have a special page on our website that outlines the options for reporting the death of a retiree: https://www.dfas.mil/retdeath
The webpage also explains the steps and documents needed to claim a retiree’s final pay and claim Survivor Benefit Plan payments (if the retiree was enrolled).
In addition, we will soon have a new, downloadable checklist on that webpage you can provide to your loved ones that outlines the steps to report a death, and the documents needed to claim your final paycheck, as well as resources for how to claim Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments (if the retiree was enrolled).
Your Last Paycheck
After you pass away, a one-time payment of your final paycheck is made to a beneficiary. This is called your Arrears of Pay (AOP).
In most cases, the Arrears of Pay will be only the pro-rated amount of your final month’s retirement pay. This is because your entitlement to retirement pay ends on the date of your death.
When your death is reported, DFAS will stop monthly payments. If a payment was made after your death. DFAS must reclaim that pay and audit your account. The amount of the payment owed to you will then be computed (based on the number of days in the month you were living) and paid to your AOP beneficiary, along with any other money owed to you at the time of your death.
To receive this payment, your AOP beneficiary will need to send us a claim form. When we receive notification of your death, this claim form will be sent in a condolence package to the AOP beneficiary you designated for your account.

The Importance of Designating Your AOP Beneficiary
It’s very important that you designate a beneficiary or beneficiaries in your retired pay account for your Arrears of Pay, and that you keep that information current.
Unless otherwise noted, your AOP beneficiary will also be the person we contact for assistance in closing your account, so it is important to designate a person you trust to handle your affairs.
Failing to designate an AOP beneficiary and keep their contact information current could cause stress and financial hardship for your survivors during an already difficult time, because the final payment could be delayed.
When no beneficiary is named, the payment is made to the highest person in what is known as the "Order of Precedence." The Order of Precedence is the federally mandated order of inheritance that applies to legacies without a designated beneficiary. It can take many months to locate your survivors, identify who comes highest in the Order of Precedence, and then make the payment.
That's why having a current, correct and complete beneficiary designation on file is important to prevent delays or errors in your arrears payment.
We also suggest you limit the number of your AOP beneficiaries to avoid delays in payment. Remember that the AOP payment is usually less than one month’s pay, and this amount will be divided among all of your designated beneficiaries.
Keep in mind that designating a sole beneficiary in your will does not automatically make that person your AOP beneficiary.
Also, the AOP designation does not entitle the person named as a beneficiary(s) to a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity. A separate SBP election must be made to cover the desired individual for SBP purposes.

Telling Your Loved Ones What to Expect
In the difficult days after your passing, your loved ones will need to notify a long list of people and agencies.
We try to make the process a bit easier and convenient by offering an online notification of death form on our askDFAS website using our askDFAS online form - available online 24/7.
Your loved ones can access the online notification form from several different links at the Retired Military & Annuitants area of our website at: https://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary
Your loved one can also call our Customer Care Center toll-free during business hours at 1-800-321-1080.
When we receive notification, we will mail a condolence package that will include information and the form to claim Arrears of Pay (SF 1174). We will also send the information and form to apply for the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity (if you elected to provide it). This condolence letter is generally sent within a week of the report of death. 
It’s important for your loved ones to know that they will also need to provide a copy of the Certificate of Death that includes the cause or manner of death with these forms. We are required to have a copy of the retiree’s death certificate that states the cause or manner of death prior to making any payments.     

New Tools to Make Claiming Arrears of Pay Easier
We know that taking care of the paperwork after someone passes away is difficult.
We want to make the process as easy as possible. That’s why we created a new set of tools to make filling out and submitting the SF 1174 (for claiming Arrears of Pay when a retiree passes away) quicker and easier.
The tools include:

Our SF 1174 PDF Form Wizard makes filling out the form easier.
For spouses or children of a deceased retiree, the SF 1174 Form Wizard will help them fill out the SF 1174 Arrears of Pay form. The Form Wizard will ask a series of questions and fill in the answers in the appropriate areas of the form. When they have finished answering the questions, they can click a button to generate a ready-to-print PDF with the answers.
We also have a How-To Checklist and How-To Video available to assist claimants in filling out the SF 1174 form.

We have an online upload option to submit the SF 1174 and documents on our website.
Claimants can submit the completed and signed SF 1174 and required documentation using our askDFAS online upload tool on the DFAS.mil website, which is also accessible on a mobile browser.
Plus, when they upload the SF 1174 and documentation through askDFAS, they will receive status notifications via the email address they provide.
SF 1174 Wizard, How-Tos, and Instructions Online
The tools and more information are available on the Forms page on our website: https://www.dfas.mil/raforms or via the “How to Claim a Retiree’s Arrears of Pay Using the SF 1174” webpage, which has specific instructions and links to frequently asked questions: https://www.dfas.mil/retireeaop.

Direct Deposit for Arrears of Pay Payments
We can now deposit an Arrears of Pay (AOP) payment directly to an eligible claimant’s bank account instead of mailing a check. Direct deposit can reduce the time it takes to receive the payment. To have an AOP payment direct deposited to their bank account, the claimant needs to send a completed Direct Deposit Authorization (DFAS-CL Form 1059) with their SF 1174. This form is available for download from the webpage: https://www.dfas.mil/retireeaop.

Starting Survivor Benefit Plan Payments

If you are enrolled in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) or the Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan (RSFPP), your SBP beneficiary should promptly complete and submit the DD 2656-7 Verification for Survivor Annuity and supporting documents. 

We have a special webpage explaining how to start an SBP annuity page with how-to information and tools for filling out and submitting the documents, including a helpful DD 2656-7 Form Wizard and online upload tool: https://www.dfas.mil/startsbp


Page Updated December 20, 2023