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News > Commentary - Take Care of Your Family
Take Care of Your Family

Posted 12/8/2010   Updated 12/8/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Lt. Col. Nolan Corpuz
Deputy Commander, 7th Mission Support Group

12/8/2010 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- As a career force support officer, I've had the honor of working casualty notifications and funeral arrangements for numerous Air Force active duty fatalities at several bases. It was an awesome responsibility that I took very seriously, because when you're dealing with grieving families you only have one chance to ensure their loved ones are handled with dignity and honor. If I could share with you only one "lesson learned" from all of the cases that I've dealt with, it would be to always keep your virtual Record of Emergency Data and Servicemen's Group Life Insurance updated. Its amazing how two documents that only take a few minutes to fill out can have such a profound impact on your family's life.

The vRED, or DD Form 93, accomplishes three things: it lets the Air Force know who to notify in case of serious injury or death, who should receive your unpaid pay and allowances and Death Gratuity, and who directs the disposition of your remains. Your SGLI election determines who will receive the insurance money. If you don't keep these documents updated and if something were to happen to you, we may not be able to make timely notifications to your next of kin; worse yet, money that should go to your current family may go to an ex-spouse. The below examples are from real cases that I dealt with, and they highlight the problems that arose as a result of not having these documents updated.

Senior Airman Alpha, an only child, was separated (not legally) from his wife and was planning to divorce her. They recently moved into different apartments, and his wife was "dating" another man. Senior Airman Alpha ended up dying in a fiery automobile accident. Unfortunately he didn't update his vRED or SGLI, so the death gratuity, unpaid pay and allowances, and the $400,000 SGLI payment all went to his wife. In addition, his wife was still designated as the person authorized to direct disposition of his remains. Therefore, we had to work with her to determine his funeral arrangements, and she initially didn't care about the wishes of her husband's parents. As you can imagine, Senior Airman Alpha's parents were distraught since they knew their son was getting a divorce but she was getting everything. Eventually his wife agreed to let his parents make the funeral arrangements.

Tech Sgt. Bravo was married and had a 2-year old son. He died in an automobile accident, and upon reviewing his SGLI, it listed a different wife and a 6-year old daughter. Because he never updated his SGLI, the entire $400,000 payment went to his ex-wife and daughter; his current family only received his Death Gratuity and unpaid pay and allowances.

Staff Sgt. Charlie died in an automobile accident. On his vRED, he listed his mother's address as a "Rural Route" in South Carolina. A Casualty Notification team was dispatched from Shaw AFB N.C., but after driving three hours and getting to the town, they learned the address was actually a P.O. Box in the local Post Office and not a house. It takes another couple of hours to track down an actual address for his mother, thus slowing down the notification time.

Finally, Staff Sgt. Delta dies in a motorcycle accident. He was divorced a few years prior, and he updated his vRED accordingly so his death gratuity and unpaid pay and allowances went to his parents, brother, and sister. However, he didn't update his SGLI, so that $400,000 went to his ex-wife. As you can imagine, his family was absolutely livid when they found out about this; we simply couldn't do anything about it.

We currently live in a society where everyone is busy and always on the go. Unfortunately, no matter how busy you are or how much you don't like to think about it, death will come one day. The big issue that you must deal with is how best to take care of your family if you die unexpectedly. Make sure you update your vRED and SGLI whenever you have a change in marital status. Update your vRED every time you move or if your next of kin move so we have a chance to make a timely notification in person instead of them hearing about it on TV. Finally, don't ignore the reminder you receive from AFPC on your birthday to review your information. By not taking 10 minutes of your time now, you could risk impacting your family for life.

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