Losing a loved one is never easy, but receiving the news that a member of the military has passed on while in service can be doubly cruel. With this in mind, the Ministry of Defence make sure they break the news as quickly and as compassionately as possible. As well as taking the utmost care during notification of next of kin, the military also offer financial and consolatory support for the hardest times following the bereavement. Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect when someone in the military dies.
The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) in Gloucestershire is manned around the clock to handle 86,000 calls a year – although not all of these deal with deaths in the service. However, at the merest suggestion that a service member may have been killed in the line of duty, the JCCC alerts casualty notifying officers (CNOs) of the possibility of bereavement, who then position themselves close to the residence of the military person’s next of kin and emergency contacts.
As soon as confirmation of the death comes through, the CNOs are dispatched to the houses in question to break the news as quickly as possible. The reasoning behind this approach is to alert the bereaved before they have any chance of learning through traditional news channels, social media or other manners. The CNOs are trained to deliver the bad news in as considerate and compassionate a manner as possible.
The funeral will only be allowed to take place once a coroner (or procurator fiscal north of the border) has confirmed the cause of death. The funeral may take place in any part of Britain or an overseas country if that is where the next of kin is now based. The military will provide financial help for the following areas:
• Repatriation of the body to the home country
• Transportation to an undertaker or funeral director of your choice
• A service funeral (including a hearse and one extra car, the acquisition of a burial plot and a headstone)
• Funds of up to £3,446 for a private funeral
If there are complications surrounding the deceased’s death, there may be an inquest. These can be tumultuous and exacerbate stress levels at an already difficult time, so the Royal British Legion offers free legal advice for those struggling to manage on their own.
After the initial notification by the CNOs, a visiting officer (VO) is assigned to the bereaved persons to offer support with regard to the funeral arrangements, administration queries and the returning of the personal effects of the disease. VOs are not necessarily trained to offer emotional support, but they often stay in contact with the family for months or even years after the death. Cruse Bereavement Care and SSAFA offer additional grieving support.
Depending on the deceased’s pension and benefit scheme, the bereaved may also be entitled to financial compensation after their death. Furthermore, if it can be proven that their death was a direct result of their work, all of their assets may be exempt from inheritance tax and bereaved persons may also be entitled to a pay-out from their life insurance scheme, if the deceased had one.