What support is available to my family?
Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult process for anyone to have to go through. Losing a loved one whilst they were serving in the armed forces comes with its own particular challenges which can complicate the grieving process.
Where to turn to for support when a service person or veteran dies?
There is a lot of guidance available about what steps you should take when a service person or veteran dies, which can all be found on the government’s website.
Tell Us Once is a service that lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go, which can you do using the link above. You will also find details about who you need to notify of a veteran’s death.
The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) manages and co-ordinate practical needs following the death of a person in service. More information about their role can be found on their website. You will be assigned a Visiting Officer who will contact you within a few days of the death, and will be able to explain what steps need to be taken.
It can be very overwhelming to deal with all of the practical considerations so it is important to get practical help and support, which is available through Veterans Welfare Service and Veterans’ Gateway.
If you are living in service accommodation then you may be able to stay there for up to two years depending on your circumstances. You should speak to your Visiting Officer about this and if you need advice on your housing options then you should contact the Joint Service Housing Advice Office.
There are specific benefits which will be paid when your loved one’s death has happened whilst they were still serving, or within 7 years of their service ending:
Survivor’s Guaranteed Income Payment (SGIP)
SGIP is paid monthly for life to an eligible partner- that is someone who was in a relationship with the deceased and who was financially dependent or interdependent on the deceased.
Child payments is a monthly income paid to the deceased’s child, adopted child or any other child who was financially dependent on them and under 18 at the time of death.
A Bereavement Grant is payable as a tax free lump sum to an eligible partner or children.
How do I make a claim?
In the event of a death in service your family will be supported by Visiting Officers and Veterans Welfare Service Managers. Veterans UK will automatically consider if any benefits are payable.
You will be able to find more information here.
Pension – Dependant’s Benefits
In the event of a death in service, and provided you meet the eligibility criteria (2 years of qualifying service), your spouse, civil partner or eligible partner will receive an immediate pension paid for life and a tax-free lump sum.
If you leave the armed forces with a deferred pension and die before this starts being paid your spouse, civil partner or eligible partner will receive an immediate pension paid for life and a tax-free lump sum.
Helping with the costs of education
The Armed Forces Education Trust provides grants, which families may be eligible to apply for.
You can find more information about applying for and funding higher education courses here.
If you have suffered a bereavement there are a number of charities which offer support specifically for military families: Cruse Bereavement Care, SSAFA, Winston’s Wish and Army Families Federation
What happens when there is a death during active service?
When there has been a death in service, the MoD will carry out its own investigation into what happened, to see if lessons can be learnt from the fatality.
A civilian investigation, called an inquest, is also carried out if:
- There is reason to suspect that the deceased died a violent or unnatural death;
- The cause of death is unknown, or
- The deceased died while in custody or state detention.
Types of deaths that are investigated
The types of deaths that are investigated by the MOD may involve:
- Malfunctioning equipment
- Unsafe working practices
- Inadequate training
- Medical negligence
- Heat injury
Article 2 Inquests
The purpose of the inquest process is to establish who the deceased was, and where, when and how they died.
The inquest is led by a Coroner, who may decide to conduct a more extensive inquiry called an Article 2 Inquest.
These types of inquests are appropriate where:
- The death was caused by the State and;
- There appears to have been failures that were serious and systematic and;
- The State was aware of these failures but did not act.
You can find out more about what inquests involve and the steps that are followed in the lead up to an inquest.
Support is available for families going through the inquest process. Charities such as Centre for Military Justice and Inquest help families process the loss of a loved one who was serving in the forces.
The Armed Forces Covenant for Armed Forces Families
The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
The covenant is intended to help members of the armed forces community have the same access to government and commercial services and products as any other citizen.
Support is provided in a number of areas including:
- Education and family well-being
- Having a home
- Starting a new career
- Access to healthcare
- Financial assistance
- Discounted services
You can find out more about the Armed Forces Covenant here.
Help and support beyond service
This support extends beyond service and applies to the families of veterans as well as personnel who are currently serving.
A useful starting point for understanding what support is available to service families are the service families’ federations:
Each of the federations has specific information for families about the process of transitioning from military to civilian life.
- If you have a family member leaving the Navy you can find specific information here.
- If you have a family member leaving the Army you can find specific information here.
- If you have a family member leaving the RAF you can find specific information here.
Challenges faced by military families
Military families face unique challenges such as:
- Extended and repeated periods of separation;
- Additional caring responsibilities this might place on the remaining spouse or partner;
- Anxiety surrounding an operational deployment.
There are specific initiatives under the Armed Forces Covenant to support family life in the armed forces and for veteran families.
Transitioning to civilian life
If your family is going through the process of transitioning from military to civilian life then there will be lots of practical considerations to take into account.
Relocating and finding a new home
You can find information about choosing an area to live in and what housing options might be available to you here.
Finding a new job
If you are relocating after your partner has left the armed forces then you might both be in the position of having to look for work.
You can find more information about finding a job here.
RFEA: The Forces Employment Charity provide careers advice for veterans and their families.
Settling children into a new school
You can search for primary, secondary and special needs schools and colleges near you, and check their performance here.
You can apply for a primary or secondary school place here.
Funding for education
The Armed Forces Education Trust is a charity working for children whose education may have been disrupted as a result of a parent’s service in the armed forces. They offer grants to help fund education and also provide schools with funding for additional resources to support children.
Mental Health support for families
Mental health issues can affect the family members of service personnel and veterans. This might be caused by the stresses associated with periods of separation or because family members often end up supporting a service member with their own mental health difficulties.
Where to go for treatment?
The majority of families of serving personnel, reservist and veterans will access their health care through the NHS. To get help or treatment for a mental health condition you should speak to your GP who will be able to tell you about what support services or treatments are available to you locally.
In some circumstances (such as a posting overseas) families will have access to healthcare services from the Ministry of Defence. If this is the case then treatment can be sought for any medical condition through Defence Primary Healthcare (DPHC) medical centres. You should speak to your Medical Officer who will assess you and refer you to the Department of Community Mental Health for further assessment and treatment if necessary.
Charities that support families:
- Help for Heroes provide support for veterans and their families dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse.
- PTSD Resolution is a charity that helps veterans, reservists and families who are struggling to reintegrate into a normal work and family life because of trauma suffered during service in the armed forces. Their programme is community-based, with treatment and support provided locally through a nationwide network of 200 therapists.
- The Ripple Pond provides peer support to service families who are supporting service personnel and veterans.
Support is available for you and your family to help with your transition into civilian life and into work/education.