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Chapter 8 - what to do when someone dies


 This chapter is about the steps you need to take when someone dies and the financial support and services available to you.

Planning Ahead

An information kit called Planning Ahead - A guide to putting your affairs in order can be obtained by contacting your nearest DVA Office. You can also access a copy by using this link to Planning Ahead.

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Notification of Death

DVA must be notified of the death of a pensioner or a Defence Service Homes Scheme borrower as soon as possible after the death. Depending on the situation, we take the following action:

  • Cancel the deceased's pension and benefits.
  • Pay bereavement payments to the surviving partner or estate.
  • Reassess the surviving partner's pension to the single rate.
  • Notify the Office of Australian War Graves.
  • Send a funeral benefit application form to the executor or person responsible for the funeral cost.
  • Notify the widow or widower or administrator of the estate of the entitlements or arrangements for Defence Service Homes loans.
  • Make arrangements for any aids and appliances to be returned to the Department.
  • Arrange a final payment summary for taxation purposes (upon request).

We will also assess your surviving partner's eligibility for war widow/ers pension and income support supplement.

What happens to your pension when your partner dies?

Your new income support pension rate is reassessed and paid at the single rate. Initially it is calculated using half of the amount of any joint bank accounts and joint investments in the assessment. You will need to let us know the gross amount of any superannuation and/or any overseas pension that you will receive following your partner’s death. When your partner’s estate is finalised the amount of your income and assets may be higher than the amount used to initially assess your pension.

We will write to you following the death of your partner and again approximately 14 weeks later. Depending on your income and assets the letter may also include a 'Statement of Circumstances' review form. If you do not receive a review form, you still need to tell us if your income and assets increase above the income free area and the assets value limit described in Chapter 5 Your income and assets.

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Financial Assistance

Payments after bereavement

Following the death of a pensioner there are a number of payments available:

  • If an income support pensioner dies without leaving a surviving partner, a payment equal to 14 days income support pension may be paid to that pensioner's estate.
  • As a surviving partner of an income support pensioner you may be entitled to a bereavement payment based on 98 days (14 weeks) entitlement of the pension. Generally you will receive a lump sum equal to the difference between the rate you were paid as a couple (not illness separated) and the rate you will be paid as a single person.
  • As a surviving partner of an Australian disability pensioner you may be entitled to a lump sum bereavement payment equivalent to 6 fortnightly pension instalments of pension at the rate paid prior to death.
  • Note: If the partner has access to payments made to the deceased after death, the bereavement payment will be adjusted by the amount of any payments which should not have been made after death or paid at the incorrect rate after death.
    Note: If the surviving partner is paid income support pension from Centrelink, then Centrelink will be responsible for the income support bereavement payment.
  • Upon the death of a single veteran there is no further entitlement to disability pension. Any payments of disability pension made after death will need to be refunded.
  • If a single veteran receiving either Special Rate (T&PI) disability pension or Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA) dies in indigent circumstances, a lump sum bereavement payment equal to 6 fortnightly pension instalments may be paid to their estate. Indigent circumstances are where the value of the estate is not sufficient to cover all liabilities including funeral expenses. Payment is not automatic. The executor of their estate must apply for this bereavement payment.
  • Following the death of a war widow(er) (single or partnered), there is no further entitlement of war widow(er)'s pension.  As eligibility for the war widow(er)’s pension for a given fortnight is dependent on the war widow(er) being alive for the entirety of that fortnight, war widow(er)'s pension is not payable in relation to the pension period in which a war widow(er) dies. As such any payments of pension made after death will need to be refunded. Many war widow(er)'s also receive the income support supplement which is an income support payment and bereavement payments for the income support supplement are calculated accordingly.

Note: If you were married or were living in a marriage-like relationship and separated for reasons other than ill health (or divorced), you are not eligible for a bereavement payment. 

Funeral benefits for veterans

Following an eligible Australian veteran's death, a funeral benefit up to a maximum of $2,000 may be payable to the person responsible for payment of the funeral account.

The maximum amount will be paid where the veteran was receiving Special Rate (T&PI) disability pension, Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA), disability pension plus an allowance as an amputee or was an ex-prisoner of war. In all other cases, additional criteria apply including that the application is made on our claim form and within 12 months of the veteran's death.

Funeral benefits may also be payable under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA).

See Factsheets:

Funeral benefits for certain dependants

Up to $2,000 will be paid for the funeral of certain dependants including war widows who die in severe financial need.

Note: Contact DVA for application forms and details of how the funeral benefits payment can be made.

See Factsheet:

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Counselling

Whilst DVA staff working in Bereavement Units are not trained counsellors, counselling services are available to help you. The Legacy organisation (refer to the White Pages of your telephone directory) is also available to provide care and support to the widows and children of deceased veterans.

For more information about counselling, see Chapter 7 Your health

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Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG)

Commemoration

For eligible Australian veterans, an official commemoration may be provided in a cemetery or a crematorium at the site of interment, or in an Office of Australian War Graves Garden of Remembrance. To be eligible for an official post-war commemoration, a deceased veteran must have been:

  • a veteran whose death has been accepted by the Repatriation Commission or the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission as being due to service in war or conflict; or
  • in receipt of a Special Rate (T&PI) disability pension or an Extreme Disability Adjustment (EDA) where the veteran has seen war service; or
  • a multiple amputee as defined in Section 27.1 of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) on maximum pension rate where war service has been proven; or
  • an ex-prisoner of war; or
  • a Victoria Cross recipient.

For official commemoration, the veteran must have served in a war or conflict. For more recent conflicts, the program covers veterans whose death is related to their operational or Peacekeeping service.

Eligibility is determined by DVA, not by OAWG. If a veteran meets the above eligibility criteria, DVA need only be informed of the death. Otherwise DVA requires a written request that the veteran’s death be accepted as due to war or operational service. For questions about eligibility contact your nearest DVA Office. There is no time limit on application for official commemoration.

Other services provided by the Office of Australian War Graves

In addition to official commemoration, the Office of Australian War Graves provides:

  • permission, on behalf of the Department of Defence, to use the Service emblem on the private commemorations of Australian veterans;
  • a historical research service in respect of those who have died in war time; and
  • maintenance of national war memorials overseas.

If you need more information or assistance the OAWG can be contacted by phoning (freecall) 1800 026 185 or direct  to (02) 6289 6517 or writing to the Director, Office of Australian War Graves, GPO Box 9998 Canberra, ACT 2601.

See Factsheets:

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