This page provides information on bereavement payments, funeral benefits and other assistance provided under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA). It also provides basic information about the creation and effect of a will.
*Note: - For information about bereavement payments and funeral expenses available under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA), please instead refer to Help to pay for a funeral and Veteran injured after 30 June 2004.
A bereavement payment is a one-off, non-taxable payment designed to help with the costs that may follow the death of a pensioner. Where the deceased pensioner was a member of a couple, the bereavement payment will assist the surviving partner to adjust their finances following the cessation of the pensioner's payments.
There are two types of bereavement payment under the VEA: those made after the death of a person who was receiving disability pension, and those made after the death of a person who was in receipt of an income support payment. If the deceased was receiving both disability pension and an income support payment, it is possible for bereavement payments to be payable in respect of both payments.
If the pensioner was a member of a couple, the payment is usually made to the surviving partner, if the couple were:
- living together;
- living separately because one or both of the members of the couple were ill or frail;
- living separately because either of them was in respite care at the time of death
and the pensioner was receiving disability pension.
However, if the pensioner was receiving:
- service pension;
- social security age pension;
- Defence Force Income Support Allowance (DFISA); or
- income support supplement;
the surviving partner is only entitled to a bereavement payment in respect of that payment if they were themselves in receipt of a service pension, income support supplement, social security pension or the DFISA at the time of the pensioner’s death.
The bereavement payment is usually made to the deceased person's estate, if the pensioner was single, separated, or widowed when they died, and they were receiving:
- service pension;
- social security age pension;
- Defence Force Income Support Allowance (DFISA);
- income support supplement;
- disability pension at the Special rate (T&PI) and died in needy circumstances; or
- disability pension at the Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA) rate and died in needy circumstances.
*Note: - A person died in needy circumstances if their estate has insufficient funds to pay for all outstanding liabilities including the cost of the person's funeral.
You do not generally have to apply for a bereavement payment if the deceased person was a member of a couple. Payment will occur automatically upon notification of the death to DVA.
If the veteran was single, died in needy circumstances, and was receiving a Special rate (T&PI) or Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA) disability pension prior to their death, then a bereavement payment may be able to be made to the estate. To apply for a bereavement payment for a single veteran, please fill out DVA Form D9145 and return to DVA. An application for payment must be made within 12 months of the veteran's death.
The amount of bereavement payment depends on the pension that the pensioner was receiving prior to their death and whether they were single or a member of a couple.
Income support bereavement payment - member of a couple
When an income support pensioner was a member of a couple and the surviving partner is eligible for a bereavement payment, that payment continues the pension entitlements of the deceased person for a period of 98 days starting on the day on which the person died.
In most cases the surviving partner will receive a lump sum payment made up of the difference between the new single rate of pension and the previous combined rates of each member of the couple, multiplied by 98days. If the new single rate of pension is equal to or higher than the previous combined rates of each member of the couple, no separate amount is payable to the surviving partner. However for 98 days the part of the single rate of pension that is equal to the pension that was payable to the deceased just prior to death is exempt from tax.
For an illness-separated couple, the bereavement payment is calculated using the partnered rate of pension (as if they were not living apart), rather than the illness-separated rate that the couple had been previously receiving.
The actual amount deposited may have been adjusted because pensions are paid in advance. In the event that a pension payment is made after the pensioner's date of death this will be included in the bereavement payment calculation. The bereavement payment lump sum will be automatically paid into the account where the surviving partner's pension is paid.
Income support bereavement payment - single pensioner
When a single income support pensioner dies, one instalment of the rate of pension that the pensioner was receiving prior to their death is paid to their estate.
Disability pension bereavement payment
A bereavement payment equal to six instalments of the fortnightly rate of disability pension that the veteran was receiving prior to their death may be paid to the estate of a single special rate (T&PI) or extreme disablement adjustment (EDA) pensioner who died in needy circumstances.
Where a disability pensioner was a member of a couple, the disability pension bereavement payment paid to the surviving partner is the equivalent of six fortnightly pension instalments, at the rate of pension paid prior to death.
A funeral benefit is a one-off payment, up to a maximum of $2,000 to assist with the funeral costs of an eligible veteran or dependant and may also assist with the costs of transporting the veteran's body from the place of death to the normal place of residence. Where eligibility for a funeral benefit arises due to a posthumous grant or an increase to the rate of disability pension, the amount payable as a funeral benefit is the rate applicable at the date of death.
An application from the estate of a deceased veteran or dependant for funeral benefit must be made on the funeral benefit form within 12 months of the death, or from the date that the veteran's death was accepted as war caused. The receipt or account for the funeral should be attached. The benefit can be paid directly to the funeral director at the request of the executor. To apply for a funeral benefit, please fill out DVA Form D307 and return to DVA.
Australian veterans are automatically entitled to a funeral benefit if, at the time of death, they were:
- receiving Special rate (T&PI) disability pension;
- receiving Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA) rate pension;
- receiving disability pension plus an allowance as a multiple amputee; or
- a former prisoner of war.
A funeral benefit may also be payable for Australian veterans and former members who died:
- from an accepted service-related disability;
- in needy circumstances;
- in an institution (including a hospital or nursing home);
- travelling to or from an institution;
- after discharge from an institution in which the veteran had received treatment for a terminal illness; or
- while being treated at home for a terminal illness.
A funeral benefit may be payable where a war widow(er), child under 16 or full time student under 25 dies in severe financial need. Applications must be made within 12 months of the dependant's death.
A funeral benefit is not payable under the VEA if an entitlement to a funeral benefit exists under the MRCA.
Where a person has dual entitlement under the VEA and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA), any funeral benefit paid under the VEA will reduce the amount payable under the DRCA.
War widow(er)'s pension may be payable to the partner of deceased veterans and orphan's pension may be payable to dependent children of deceased veterans. For further information, please see Pension for orphans and war widowed partners.
Recipients of war widow(er)'s and orphan's pensions are issued with a Veteran Gold Card. This card entitles the holder to a range of health care for all conditions.
War widow(er)'s may be entitled to income support supplement, an income and assets tested pension that provides additional regular income. For further information, please see Education schemes.
On request, DVA will provide a statement of taxable service pension paid to the deceased pensioner. Bereavement payments are not counted as income for taxation purposes.
A veteran whose death has been accepted as being war-caused may be entitled to official commemoration.
Rehabilitation aids and appliances can sometimes be re-used if they are returned after the death of a veteran. Their return can be arranged by contacting the original supplier.
A will is a legal document that enables you to exercise your right to select the relatives, friends and others (such as charitable organisations) who will inherit your assets when you die.
You may choose to make your own will. If you choose to do this you must ensure that it is a clear and valid will. You may also choose to consult a solicitor, a public trustee or private trustee to assist you in drawing up your will. The will must be signed by yourself and two independent witnesses who are not beneficiaries. Your executor should be made aware of their appointment as your executor.
By having an up to date will at the time of your death you will ensure that your assets and possessions will be distributed according to your wishes.
If you have no will at the time of your death your assets will be divided according to a formula set out in Government legislation. This formula may not divide your assets the way you would have wished.
An information package, called: 'Planning Ahead - A guide to putting your affairs in order' provides detailed advice on preparing for and coping with bereavement. In particular, the package's booklet provides further details about legal and financial issues, such as: wills, power of attorney and guardianship arrangements.