Updated casualty documents important
to Soldiers' loved ones
|By Kevin Logan, U.S. Army Human Resources Command
America has now been at war since October 2001, almost 10 years of
putting Soldiers in “harm’s way.” Ten years of “No kidding, you’re going
to war; you need to ensure your Casualty Documents are current.” Ten
years of rushing Soldiers through personnel-readiness checks during a
time of war to provide them the opportunity to update their emergency
data and life-insurance beneficiary information.
Stepping up to the plate
It is the responsibility of all Soldiers to update their own casualty
documents and to ensure their intent is annotated properly. After all,
only the Soldier knows when changes need to be made to either the Record
of Emergency Data (DD Form 93) or Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLV).
Likewise, Army leaders and human-resources specialists must understand
every field on these forms as well as the ramifications of uneducated
choices by Soldiers and how they affect their survivors. Only then can
they educate Soldiers. Informed decisions allow the Army to carry out
the Soldiers’ last wishes.
There are two forms critical to supporting your survivors if something
were to happen to you: DD Form 93, Record of Emergency Data, and SGLV
Form 8286, Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) Election and
Certificate. Together, these two documents are known in the military as
the “Casualty Documents.”
Record of emergency data
Soldiers should view the DD Form 93 as the most-important document they
sign after their enlistment contract or oath of office. The Casualty and
Mortuary Affairs Operations Center (CMAOC) retrieves a copy of the DD
Form 93 for every reportable casualty from the Interactive Personnel
Electronic Records Management System (iPERMS) and requests copies of the
form from the unit to ensure it has the most current signed copy. This
form provides CMAOC with the most up-to-date contact information for
immediate Family members whom the Soldier wants to be notified if the
Soldier becomes a casualty. It is vital that the contact information on
the DD Form 93 never be out-of-date. Additionally, the DD Form 93 is the
official document that designates beneficiaries for death gratuity (DG),
unpaid pay and allowances (UPPA) and appoints the Person Authorized to
Direct Disposition (PADD).
Over the past few years, CMAOC has detected some issues with Soldiers’
“Casualty Documents.” Common errors for the DD Form 93 include:
• Missing information for the mother and father;
• Choosing an ineligible organization, minor child or no designation at
all for the $100,000 DG and UPPA;
• Disallowed portion distributions for DG; and
• Electing an ineligible person for the PADD.
If the Soldier’s father and mother are known, their names are to go into
blocks 6a and 7a, and their current addresses are annotated in blocks 6b
and 7b. If a parent is deceased or whereabouts unknown, the name still
goes within the appropriate block, but the address should be annotated
as “deceased” or “unknown.” If the Soldier is unsure of whom the parents
are, then “unknown” in either block or both blocks would be sufficient.
Currently, many Soldiers aren’t designating anyone to receive the death
gratuity. In doing this, the Soldier loses the ability to specify their
intent. Failure to designate a death-gratuity recipient causes the
Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to distribute it “by law.”
• If the Soldier is married, the spouse gets 100 percent of the death
• If unmarried with children, they divide it equally among all children;
• If unmarried without children, they divide it equally among both
parents, whether or not they are married.
Human-resources (HR) specialists need to ask the Soldier whom they want
to receive the death gratuity and be able to explain the importance of
designating recipients. When HR specialists don’t ask Soldiers this
question and explain it, Soldiers sometimes:
• Fail to update death-gratuity beneficiaries after a divorce;
• Choose an organization or another non-human entity that cannot be paid
according to the law, or;
• Leave death gratuity to a minor child, not knowing that DFAS cannot
pay out the entitlement to an underage beneficiary. The guardian, even
the biological parent, must go to court and have themselves declared
guardian of the child, after which DFAS will pay the guardian on behalf
of the child. Overall, these designations — or lack of designations —
result in unnecessary stress for the survivors.
Additionally, although the law also states that death gratuity will be
distributed in 10 percent increments, obsolete DD Forms 93 show
elections of 25 percent, 35 percent, etc. When Soldiers elect increments
other than 10 percent, their chosen beneficiary is disallowed and that
portion to be distributed “by law,” and those Soldiers lose their
ability to choose the beneficiary.
Unpaid Pay and Allowances
Some Soldiers leave the “Beneficiary (ies) for UPPA” field blank. This
block is used to pay the beneficiary any monies that were due to the
Soldier, such as an unpaid portion of a bonus and/or final paycheck.
This oversight causes those Soldiers’ UPPA to be distributed “by law,”
and those Soldiers lose their say in the distribution.
One of the more sensitive elections that execute the Soldier’s intent is
the selection of the PADD.
Soldiers need to think about who would be the best person to make
decisions relating to how they want to be laid to rest (buried or
cremated), location of the interment or spreading of ashes, what they
wear when buried, etc. By law, this person must be the spouse or a blood
relative. When a Soldier doesn’t elect anyone or elects someone who
isn’t a blood relative, the Soldier’s PADD will be determined by the
order of precedence.
If immediate Family isn’t available, the Army will attempt to find a
relative of the Soldier. If that fails, the Secretary of the Army will
make these decisions for the Soldier.
After a reported death, CMAOC obtains the most current SGLI, SGLV Form
8286 from the Soldier’s personnel file at the unit or using Electronic
Military Personnel Office (eMILPO). SGLV Form 8286 is used to designate
principal and contingent beneficiaries for the Soldier’s SGLI of up to
$400,000. Soldiers can elect anyone to be a beneficiary. Soldiers can
even elect organizations and agencies, unlike with the death gratuity.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has contracted with Prudential
Insurance to provide low-cost life insurance to all Soldiers who wish to
have coverage. Soldiers automatically join the service with coverage of
$400,000, but may choose to decrease in $50,000 increments or cancel it
at any time.
Currently, the eMILPO system is the preferred method to process the SGLI
coverage for all Army components. Issues do occur when Soldiers decrease
their insurance coverage and then want to change their coverage back to
a higher amount. Soldiers can do this but need to ensure that they
complete the proper documentation. SGLV Form 8285, Request for
Insurance, in conjunction with SGLV Form 8286 is needed to ensure the
correct premiums are drafted from the Soldier’s pay. The new combined
SGLV Form 8286, which also is available on the VA’s website, is
sufficient to complete this action.
Whenever there is a change in SGLI coverage, the new forms must be
transmitted to iPERMS (Interactive Personnel Electronic Records
Management System), which is the Soldier database of record.
All components have iPERMS and all casualty documents need to be stored
in iPERMS to ensure the Army carries out the Soldier’s last wishes. Lack
of documentation can result in payment to other past beneficiaries. For
example, an ex-spouse who was listed on an older SGLV Form 8286 may
receive 100 percent of the monies if the Soldier didn’t update
beneficiaries after the divorce.
When Soldiers elect someone other than spouse, parents or other Family
members, they must be counseled for an unusual beneficiary. Soldiers may
have a very good reason for their election, but it is the
human-resources specialist’s responsibility to counsel the Soldier to
ensure that Soldiers know the election may have unknown consequences
that they cannot foresee.
Spousal Notification Letters
Whenever a Soldier designates a person other than the spouse or children
to receive all or a portion of the death gratuity or SGLI, the Army must
attempt to notify the Soldier’s spouse in writing.
Therefore, if a married Soldier designates another person in addition to
or in place of the spouse or children, the brigade S-1, separate
battalion S-1 or Military Personnel Directorate with the Soldier’s
records responsibility will prepare and send a letter to the current
filed mailing address for the spouse within Defense Eligibility
Enrollment Reporting System or as provided by the Soldier.
This letter is generated automatically when human-resources specialists
use eMILPO to prepare both “Casualty Documents.”
U.S. Army Human Resources Command has taken several steps to improve
visibility and execution of these essential tasks:
• Creating a query in iPERMS (under DD93/SGLV tab/unit summary);
• Enabling unit’s identification of missing “Casualty Documents;” and,
• Forecasting ability for required annual updates.
Soldiers now can digitally sign the DD93 and SGLV forms within eMILPO,
which also automatically uploads them to iPERMS.
Again, it is each Soldier’s responsibility to keep their “Casualty
Documents” up-to-date. If a Soldier becomes a casualty, the Army wants
to be able to quickly notify the appropriate Family members, and if the
Soldier pays the ultimate sacrifice, the Army wants to ensure that it
executes the Soldier’s intent as they wished.
Leaders must provide every opportunity for Soldiers to update their
records, and the human-resources specialist must fully understand
“Casualty Documents” and be able to articulate the problems with some
elections and decisions made by Soldiers.
They also need to be able to provide guidance to each Soldier so that
the Soldier’s intent is captured and that the Soldier fully understands
the ramifications of individual decisions.