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In-Service Death


In-Service Death refers to the passing of a service member while they are on active duty, active duty training or inactive duty training in the U.S. military. This term is crucial in determining eligibility for various VA benefits, including Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Survivors Pension. The surviving family members of the deceased service member may receive these benefits as financial support.

Key Takeaways

  1. In-Service Death refers to the death of a service member occurring during their active duty in the military, serving in duty status, or during training exercises.
  2. The surviving dependents (e.g. spouse, children, and parents) of the deceased service member may be eligible for various Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, such as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), education assistance, and healthcare coverage.
  3. Beneficiaries must apply for these benefits through the VA, providing documentation to prove their relationship to the deceased service member, and in some cases, demonstrating financial need.


The term “In-Service Death” in the context of VA benefits is significant as it directly impacts the eligibility for various benefits and compensation provided to survivors and dependents of the deceased service member.

When a military member dies while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, it is classified as an in-service death.

This classification entitles family members and dependents to a range of benefits such as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), survivor pension, educational assistance, and burial and memorial services, among others.

Recognizing and understanding the importance of in-service death ensures that the survivors of the deceased service member receive appropriate support, resources, and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs, acknowledging the individual’s ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.


In-Service Death refers to the unfortunate circumstance in which a servicemember loses their life while actively serving in the military. Such a tragic event has profound implications on the surviving family members, who might face financial hardships, emotional turmoil, and significant life adjustments.

The purpose of recognizing In-Service Death within the context of VA benefits is to ensure that the families of these fallen heroes receive necessary support and assistance in navigating the challenges following the loss of their loved one. This acknowledgment emphasizes the importance of providing prompt and comprehensive benefits to the surviving family members, in recognition of the servicemember’s ultimate sacrifice for their country.

To address the needs of the families of those who experienced In-Service Death, specific VA benefits and programs are implemented to offer financial relief, educational opportunities, medical coverage, and emotional support. These benefits may include Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Survivor Benefit Plan, Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, burial benefits, educational assistance through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program, and access to healthcare through TRICARE.

Each of these programs aims to honor the memory of the fallen servicemembers by providing a measure of security and stability for their surviving family members, enabling them to adapt to their new circumstances and continue to thrive in the wake of their loss.

Examples of In-Service Death

In-service death refers to the death of an active-duty military service member while still in service, which results in specific benefits provided to the surviving spouses, dependents, or other family members. Here are three real-world examples of in-service death:

Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014): During Operation Enduring Freedom, many U.S. service members lost their lives in combat, making their families eligible for in-service death benefits. One example is the loss of Army Sgt. First Class Kristoffer B. Domeij in October

His family would have received various benefits such as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), and various educational benefits.

Training accidents: In-service deaths can also occur during military exercises or training activities. A notable example is the July 2017 incident where 16 servicemen, 15 Marines, and one Navy Corpsman died in a plane crash in Mississippi during a routine refueling mission. In this case, the families of these service members would have received in-service death benefits to cope with the loss and maintain financial stability.

Non-combat deaths: Sometimes, military personnel die while on active duty as a result of non-combat-related incidents, such as accidents, health issues, or other events. For instance, in October 2020, Army Specialist Samuel D. Keenan passed away on Fort Jackson, South Carolina, while in service. The family of Specialist Keenan would have been eligible for in-service death benefits to provide financial support in the aftermath of their loss.

In-Service Death: VA Benefits FAQ

What is In-Service Death?

In-Service Death refers to the death of an active-duty service member during their time of service in the military. Eligible survivors may qualify for various VA benefits, such as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), Survivor’s Pension, and more.

Who is eligible for VA benefits in the case of In-Service Death?

Surviving spouses, children, and sometimes parents of service members who died while on active duty are typically eligible for VA benefits. Each benefit program has specific eligibility requirements that must be met by the applicant.

What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monthly benefit paid to eligible survivors of military service members who died in the line of duty or from a service-related injury or disease. The amount of DIC depends on the survivor’s relationship to the deceased and may be adjusted for inflation.

What is Survivor’s Pension, and who is eligible for it?

Survivor’s Pension, also known as Death Pension, is a needs-based, tax-free benefit paid to eligible surviving spouses and unmarried dependent children of deceased wartime veterans. Eligibility for Survivor’s Pension is based on the financial need of the survivors and specific criteria set by the VA.

Are survivors entitled to educational benefits in the case of In-Service Death?

Yes, eligible survivors may qualify for the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship, which offers education benefits to spouses and children of service members who died in the line of duty. These benefits include assistance with tuition, fees, housing, and other education expenses.

How can I apply for VA benefits in the case of an In-Service Death?

To apply for VA benefits, you can visit the VA website and follow their online application process. You can also visit your local VA regional office or call the VA hotline to start the application process. It’s important to gather all necessary documentation, such as the DD Form 1300 (Report of Casualty), before applying.

Where can I find more information about VA benefits in the case of an In-Service Death?

You can find more information about VA benefits by visiting the VA website or contacting your local VA regional office. Additionally, there are various VA resources available online, such as fact sheets and informational guides, to help you better understand the available benefits.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Survivors Pension
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
  • Service-Connected Death Benefits
  • Burial and Memorial Benefits
  • Educational Assistance for Dependents (DEA)

Sources for More Information