Unauthorized Absence or Desertion
Death gratuity is payable in the case of a member
whose death occurred while the member was in a UA,
absence without leave, or absence over leave status.
That includes an absence that resulted from the
members being in the custody of civil authorities,
provided the date of death occurred before the normal
expiration of contracted duty.
A death gratuity is not payable in the case of a
member who is declared a deserter at the time of death,
unless it is later found that the declaration was in error.
Payment procedures for death gratuities will vary
according to who the beneficiaries are and where they
are located. The procedures will also vary, depending
on the evidence supporting the claim. Lets first look
at the procedures when no entitlement problems exist.
Processing Disbursing officers in Cases of
In some instances, the payment of a death gratuity
will be processed by the local DO. In other instances,
it will be processed by a designated DO. Lets look at
both cases when no eligibility problems are involved.
LOCAL DISBURSING OFFICER. The DO
maintaining the service members PFR will make
payment of the death gratuity to the payee only under
the following conditions:
The payee is the decedents widow or widower
or a designated beneficiary
The payee is residing in the vicinity of the
decedents duty station.
The payment will be supported by a copy of the
Personnel Casualty Report message prescribed in the
Naval Military Personnel Manual (MILPERSMAN)
and a DD 397, Claim Certification and Voucher for
Death Gratuity Payment.
The DO must advise the
decedents CO if the member had an E allotment and
that the beneficiary may be entitled to a refired of funds
deposited in the Veterans Education Assistance
DESIGNATED DISBURSING OFFICER.
Upon authorization by BUPERS, the CO will request
DFASCL or a field DO of any service to make
payment of the death gratuity to the payee under the
When the payee is other than the decedents
widow or widower or a designated beneficiary
When the payee is not residing in the vicinity of
the decedents duty station
BUPERS will notify the designated DO by
message. This message will provide all the necessary
information the designated DO will need to prepare the
DD 397. The paying officer will prepare the DD 397
based upon the message information received from the
CO and upon message authorization from BUPERS.
Processing Agency in Cases of Questionable
BUPERS must authorize the disposition of a death
gratuity in cases involving questions of eligibility or
law. In such cases or in cases involving consideration
of doubtful facts as doubtful claims, BUPERS
determines if DFASCL must pay the claim or if it
must be forwarded to the Government Accounting
Office (GAO) for adjudication and payment. These
cases include but are not limited to the following
A common-law widow or widower
A minor child or children, an adopted child
without properly certified court adoption papers,
or an illegitimate child
In loco parentis relationships
Preparation of the DD Form 397 for All
The DD 397 is prepared in an original and five
copies. When local payment is being made, the DD 397
is originated in the admin office and signed by the CO.
When payment is being made by a designated DO,
preparation of the DD 397 is the responsibility of the
paying DO who must use the information provided in
the casualty message. This form is the authorization for
the DO to prepare the check for the payment.
The DD 397 will be distributed as follows:
Original forwarded with the DOs financial
One copy to the payee
One copy to the DOs financial retained returns
One copy to DFASCleveland Center