The death gratuity program provides for a special tax free payment of $100,000 to eligible survivors of members of the Armed Forces, who die while on active duty or while serving in certain reserve statuses. The death gratuity is the same regardless of the cause of death.
The longstanding purpose of the death gratuity has been to provide immediate cash payment to assist survivors of deceased members of the Armed forces to meet their financial needs during the period immediately following a member's death and before other survivor benefits, if any, become available.
The death gratuity is payable for death of members in a reserve status while performing authorized travel to or from active duty, while on inactive-duty training, or while performing authorized travel directly to or from active duty for training or inactive duty training, as well as, members of reserve officers' training programs who die while performing annual training duty under orders for a period of more than 13 days or while performing authorized travel to or from that duty, to applicants for membership in reserve officers' training corps who die while attending travelling to or from field training or a practice cruise and to persons travelling to from or while at a place of acceptance for entry upon active duty.
The death gratuity is also payable if an eligible member or former member dies within 120 days of release or discharge from active duty, or active duty for training when the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines that the death resulted from injury or disease incurred or aggravated during such duty.