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Page Title: Unauthorized Absence or Desertion
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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 member’s  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 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. Let’s first look at  the  procedures  when  no  entitlement  problems  exist. Processing Disbursing officers in Cases of Nonquestionable   Claims 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. Let’s look at both cases when no eligibility problems are involved. LOCAL  DISBURSING  OFFICER.—  The DO maintaining  the  service  member’s  PFR  will  make payment of the death gratuity to the payee only under the  following  conditions:   The payee is the decedent’s widow or widower or a designated beneficiary The  payee  is  residing  in  the  vicinity  of  the decedent’s 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 decedent’s  CO  if  the  member  had  an  E  allotment  and that the beneficiary may be entitled to a refired of funds deposited   in   the   Veteran’s   Education   Assistance Program  (VEAP). DESIGNATED   DISBURSING   OFFICER.— Upon  authorization  by  BUPERS,  the  CO  will  request DFAS—CL  or  a  field  DO  of  any  service  to  make payment of the death gratuity to the payee under the following   conditions: When the payee is other than the decedent’s widow  or  widower  or  a  designated  beneficiary When the payee is not residing in the vicinity of the  decedent’s  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 Claims 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 DFAS—CL 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 circumstances: 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 Claims 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  DO’s  financial returns One copy to the payee One copy to the DO’s financial retained returns One copy to DFAS—Cleveland Center 9-11

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