Casualty Assistance in Korea
To the Retiree in Korea: Let's Talk Before You Go
You're probably saying to yourself, "Hey, wait a minute. I'm not dead yet. What am I doing here?" I'm glad you asked, because the best casualty assistance your wife and/or other survivors can get is what you do for them before you die.
I know, I know, it's bad luck to talk about death. But I'll tell you what's even worse luck, and that's for your widow to have to figure out how to live for 6, 12, 18, 24 months without any money coming in once you're gone. Let's say you make the mistake of trusting that Korean bus driver to acknowledge you in the crosswalk, but your trust turns out to be misplaced and you become a hood ornament, what does she have to survive on when your retired pay stops? It could happen that quickly, and the retired pay will stop that quickly, the day you die. Remember, only you are entitled to the retired pay, it's not something that passes to your survivors (SBP is not retired pay, it's an annuity ... and no, you can't sign up for SBP now that you're retired).
And if you think just because you don't have a wife you're home free, think again. Because when you die, even if there's nobody else in Korea that you're responsible for, we still need a next of kin to tell us what to do with your mortal remains ... unless you left instructions. Without that, you're going to spend a lot of time in someone's cooler until we can find somebody who's related to you and who can give us the instructions.
Oh yeah, one more thing to think about. Some retirees have a significant other to whom they're not married. What does she get if you die? The short answer is "Nothing. Nada. Zip." And things get more complicated if you decide to marry her without the benefit of divorcing a previous wife. The previous wife gets the money, the current wife gets only the bills and headaches.
So what do you need to do? Well, at a bare minimum, check out the list of Important Records below to be sure you have them and that they can be easily found. But wait! Are they originals or just photocopies? We need the originals, because photocopies aren't worth the paper they're printed on when it comes to claiming benefits. So if you don't have them, order them NOW! Waiting until I have to do it adds 2-3 months before we can even start the application process for survivor benefits.
Do you need to get DD Form 214? Use Standard Form 180 to order it. And while you're at it, go ahead and request copies of all your personnel and medical records. It won't cost you anything and will certainly help if they're already on hand when the time comes. Come to think of it, you can use your computer and place an order on-line right now. Just go to http://www.archives.gov/research_room/vetrecs/ to place your order. To complete the order, you'll print out two pages with a barcode related to your order. Sign page 1 and mail it to the address provided. Keep page 2 as your record of the order. If you don't do it now, then we'll have to do it by mail when the time comes, and that means more delays. One more thing: once you get the DD Form(s) 214 and other records, check them over to be sure they show your service history correctly. If you find an error, you can submit a request for correction with DD Form 149 (fillable).
Do you need birth, marriage, divorce or other papers? If you're using a computer to read this, then you can find out how to order them on-line. Just go to http://www.vitalrec.com and follow the instructions to get the records you need. So what records do you need? Check below for starters. Then, after you get through this list click on the navigation bar above, then start at the left and work your way across. (The first one, Important Documents, is provided in both English and Korean to assist Korean wives.) Completing these lists will help you to help us, and we need all the help we can get from you now, while you're still here. One last thing: put them someplace safe, like a fireproof box.
Does your spouse know where your DD Form 214 is located? If not, she or he will have even more grief when youíre gone. This and a few other items are critically important for obtaining benefits. Itís your responsibility to keep your important papers together, clearly identified and easy to find.
Following are theimportant documents your spouse should have available. You should store these safely, but they should be easy to find. This list was provided by the late Mr. Dave Downing (SFC, USA Retired), Senior Advisor to the USFK Retiree Council and to the US Military Retirees Association Korea.
1. All DD Forms 214
2. Copy of latest retired pay account statement (you can use myPay to get one)
3. Bank account and credit union information, including loans and credit life insurance
4. Will, living will and durable power of attorney
5. Retirement orders
6. Marriage certificate and divorce decree(s)
8. Birth certificates
9. Other property and financial records (house(s), stocks, bonds, etc.)
10. Tax records for past three years
Dave didn't use a computer, but I do. So I just want to remind you that if you're using your computer to store financial information or anything else that will help your survivors, be sure that any passwords to access your computer, and usernames and passwords for access to important sites, like on-line banking, are also available somewhere so that we can find them when we need them. And if you change a password, don't forget to update the list. Thanks in advance.