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Frequently Asked Questions
  • AFMAO information

    Frequently Asked Questions - General AFMAO information

    Why is the process called a "dignified transfer?"
    The process is a solemn and dignified transfer from the aircraft to an awaiting transport vehicle that ensures dignity, honor and respect are afforded to the fallen. 

    Does the military pay for families to travel to Dover Air Force Base to witness the transfer?
    We are committed to the care, service and support of the families of our fallen. The military service of the fallen service member will fund the travel of the primary next of kin, plus two additional family members, to witness the dignified transfer. 

    How are aircraft selected to transport remains from theater to Dover AFB?
    Our goal is to return the fallen to their loved ones as quickly as possible. Consistent with this goal, our fallen have the highest priority and are placed on the first available aircraft to Dover AFB. 

    How are families notified of a military death?
    Families are notified by a uniformed service member from the same branch of service as the fallen. Families are also assigned a liaison officer that personally assists them in every aspect concerning the return of their fallen family member.

    How long does it take for remains to get to Dover?
    The time varies for each transfer case, but consistent with our commitment to ensure the highest priority for our fallen and their families, most service members arrive to Dover AFB within 24-48 hours.

    If they are in a "believed to be" status, why has the family been informed if positive identification hasn't been established?
    The Department of Defense considers all returning service members as "believed to be" until they are officially confirmed by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. It is Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations mission and privilege to fulfill the nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to the fallen. In addition to caring for the nation's fallen, it is AFMAO's mission to ensure families of those fallen service members are provided care, service and support of the families of our fallen. 

    Is the transfer a formal ceremony? 
    No, the dignified transfer is a solemn, dignified transfer to honor those who have given their lives in the service of our country. The term "ceremony" creates an impression that it is an event that family members need to participate in. However, we don't want to place any undue hardship on grieving families by making them feel obligated to attend. 

    What happens to the personal effects of a fallen service member?
    Personal effects of the fallen are shipped to the Joint Personal Effects Depot, also located at Dover Air Force Base, Del., which are then inventoried, processed and cataloged. A Summary Court Officer will be appointed by the service member's commander. This individual will inventory, safeguard and deliver, as directed by the primary next of kin, all personal effects. 

    What is the difference between a transfer case and a casket?
    Transfer cases are used to transport fallen members to Dover AFB. After a fallen service member has been identified and prepared for return to their families, they are placed in a casket and transported to their final resting place. 

  • Family Members

    Frequently Asked Questions - Family Members

    Who will help me with the funeral arrangements and the National Cemetery System?
    The Mortuary Affairs personnel will be your liaison with the funeral home and the National Cemetery System, and will also coordinate appropriate military funeral honors. All efforts will be made to accommodate your wishes.

    How much does a Military Funeral Honors detail cost?
    Military Funeral Honors are provided by the Department of Defense at no cost to the family.

    How can I arrange for military funeral honors?
    If military funeral honors are desired, the family arranges for them in advance through their funeral director or Mortuary Officer. Funeral directors may call the closest military installation or service organization to see if military funeral honors can be provided.

    What are military funeral honors?
    Military funeral honors are a time-honored ritual that many people find comforting at a veteran's interment service. Military funeral honors may consist of uniformed body bearers, a flag-folding detail, rifle salute, a bugler playing taps and a chaplain. The ritual may be modified or shortened to be consistent with the number of people available to provide funeral honors.

    What can the family of an eligible veteran expect?
    The core elements of the funeral honors ceremony, which will be conducted on request, include:
    - Flag folding
    - Flag presentation (veteran’s parent Service representative will present the flag)
    - Playing of Taps

    Who is eligible for a burial flag?
    The Veterans Administration establishes eligibility. Funeral directors will assist the family in obtaining a flag. More information can be found here.

    How do I request a grave headstone or marker?
    The funeral director will assist the families with any questions about grave markers. More information can be found here

    How are personal effects handled?
    Personal effects of the fallen are shipped to the Joint Personal Effects Depot, also located at Dover Air Force Base, Del., which are then inventoried, processed and cataloged. A Summary Court Officer will be appointed by the service member's commander. This individual will inventory, safeguard and deliver, as directed by the primary next of kin, all personal effects. 

    What is a Presidential Memorial Certificate?
    This program was initiated in March 1962 by President John F. Kennedy to honor the memory of honorably discharged/deceased veterans, and has been continued by all subsequent Presidents. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs administers the program by preparing the certificate which bears the President's signature and expresses the country's grateful recognition of the veteran's service in the United States Armed Forces.

    Who may receive the Presidential Memorial Certificate?
    Eligible recipients include the next of kin, other relatives or friends of the fallen. The award of a certificate to one eligible recipient does not preclude issuance to another eligible recipient. Eligible recipients, or someone acting on their behalf, may apply for a Presidential Memorial Certificate in person, or through the mail with any Veterans Administration Regional Office. Applicants should provide a copy of any document that would help establish honorable military service. More information is available here. 

    What is a Casualty Assistance Representative?
    There are a number of administrative details to be accomplished following the death of an Air Force member who dies while serving on active duty. A Casualty Assistance Representative who is trained to assist survivors will be assigned to provide you with information on federal benefits and assist you in completing all of the necessary paperwork.

    What happens when I meet with the Casualty Assistance Representative?
    During your first meeting the Casualty Assistance Representative will brief you on benefits to include death gratuity, Serviceman's Group Life Insurance, unpaid pay and allowances, dependent indemnity compensation, survivor benefits program, social security, ID cards, medical and dental benefits, educational entitlements, future use of base exchange and commissary, death certificate and Defense Department Form 1300 (Report of Casualty). Please feel free to ask questions.

    How long will I be in contact with the Casualty Assistance Representative?
    You can expect the Casualty Assistance Representative to be in contact with you regularly, until all actions are complete. This is normally accomplished within six months although, depending on circumstances, it may take longer.

    What is a Family Assistance Representative?
    The Family Assistance Representative (FAR), a volunteer appointed by the commander, works to provide assistance to families. Their aim is to reduce stress for you during this time. Initially, a Family Assistance Representative will be assigned for each person lost while serving their country and will meet with only the family members affected by that person's loss.

    What does a Family Assistance Representative do?
    The Family Assistance Representative's only duty is to assist your family during this tragic time. The Family Assistance Representative (FAR) acts as a coordinator for the key services noted above. The FAR will help gather and track information, attend meetings, provide referrals for grief counseling and be your liaison with all agencies.

    What does the Airman and Family Readiness Center offer?
    The Airman and Family Readiness Center can be your advocate and their programs can offer objective, professional support if matters become overwhelming. Official programs offered include Personal Financial Management Program, Air Force Aid Society, employment assistance, spouse support groups, referral for child care services and relocation assistance.

    What does the Mortuary Affairs Representative do?
    Your Mortuary Affairs representative will be briefing you on benefits pertaining to funeral and burial, memorial service arrangements, military funeral honors, headstone and memorial marker program and when applicable, benefits in the event the remains are not recovered. Again, please feel free to ask any questions you have. They are here for you.

    What are the goals of the Air Force Survivor Assistance Program?
    Timeliness, focus, and compassion are the overarching goals in continued service to our Air Force families.

    What is the Air Force Survivor Assistance Program?
    The Air Force Survivor Assistance Program provides support to families who have lost a loved one. Grieving families have different needs, thus each case is considered and is handled on an individual basis. The Air Force Survivor Assistance Program will marshal the available resources to meet family needs following the unexpected loss of life. The Air Force Survivor Assistance Program aims to provide efficient information flow, prompt service delivery, and timely answers to family inquiries.

    How are the death's of civilian employees serving the Air Force handled?
    Upon death, the civilian employee's supervisor is notified who, in turn, notifies the employee's local Civilian Personnel Flight or the Air Force Personnel Center's Benefits and Entitlements Service Team, as appropriate. Civilian employees with prior military service may be entitled to additional benefits. A benefits counselor will be assigned to provide the next of kin or designated beneficiary survivor benefits information and assist in completing all claims processing.

    Where does a deceased civilian's employee record go?
    Once all claims have been adjudicated, the employee's Official Personnel Folder will be transferred to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis to be retained permanently.

    If I have questions regarding Air Force casualties, how can I reach Air Force Mortuary Affairs?
    If you have questions at any time, call Air Force Mortuary Affairs at 1-800-531-5803 or e-mail us using our contact us page

    Where can I find more information on Air Force Casualty Operations?
    General information about Air Force Casualty can also be obtained from the website: http://www.afpc.af.mil/Air-Force-Casualty-Operations

    What is the Montgomery GI Bill death benefit? 
    The Department of Veteran Affairs pays a special Montgomery GI Bill death benefit to a designated survivor in the event of the service-connected death of an individual while on active duty. The deceased must either have been entitled to educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill program or a participant in the program who would have been so entitled but for the high school diploma or length of service requirement. The amount paid will be equal to the deceased member's actual military pay reduction less any educational benefits paid. The death benefit is made in "by-law" fashion to the spouse, children, and parents, and will not be paid to anyone else in the "by-law" chain.

    Who is eligible for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI)? 
    Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is group life insurance available to all Airmen who elect coverage. All members of the uniformed services are automatically insured for the maximum coverage. Airmen are automatically insured under SGLI for the maximum amount of $400,000 - unless an election is filed by the service member reducing the insurance by $50,000 increments or canceling it entirely. If an Airman chooses to opt out of the plan, then their families are not eligible to receive SGLI benefits.

    Where are records kept?
    Copies of all records are retained on base for two years. After, the original records are transferred to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis to be retained permanently.