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Social Security Key In Providing Income Security for Families of Deceased Military Service Men and Women

Military Service and Reconstruction Work in Iraq, Afghanistan Highlights Importance of Social Insurance Benefits

For Immediate Release
: November 1, 2006
Contact: Jill Braunstein at (202) 452-8097

WASHINGTON, DC—Social Security, although best known as a retirement program, is an important source of income security for families with children, including families of servicemembers who risk their lives in military service, according to a new brief released today by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI).

The war and reconstruction work in Iraq and Afghanistan raise the question of what social insurance benefits protect the families of those who lose their lives in these efforts. “While income can never replace the lost life of a father or mother, these benefits protect families against financial hardship related to their sacrifice,” said Virginia P. Reno, Vice President for Income Security at NASI and co-author of the brief.

A surviving spouse and three children of a deceased servicemember (who had been making about $18,000 annually) would be eligible for about $15,820 a year in Social Security survivor benefits. The family would also be eligible for Dependency Indemnity Compensation through the Department of Veteran's Affairs. The total benefits payable to the surviving family could equal 225 percent of the servicemember's prior pay.

According to the Department of Defense, 2,706 military deaths have occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom and 334 deaths have occurred in Operation Enduring Freedom through September 2006.

Members of the armed forces are not the only Americans at risk of losing their lives in hostile actions overseas. The number of contractors working on behalf of military operations in Iraq is estimated to be more than 20,000 and, as of October 25, 2006, 367 non-Iraqi civilian contractors have been killed since operation Iraqi Freedom began March 19, 2003, according to the Brookings Institution.

American citizens who are employed overseas by a company under a U.S. government contract are covered by Social Security, and their families have the survivor protection Social Security provides. Employers contracting with the federal government are required to have a workers' compensation program that provides disability and survivor protection to their workers overseas. If a worker's death is war-related, the federal government bears the cost of compensating the family and reimburses the employer.

“Many people think of Social Security only as a retirement program. This brief shows that it is much more than that,” Reno said. For a detailed discussion of survivor benefits from Social Security and other social insurance programs, including who is eligible for these benefits and how much they are paid, see the brief, “Survivor Benefits for Families of Deceased Servicemembers and Overseas Contract Workers,” available for download free-of-charge from www.nasi.org.

The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation's leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to promote understanding and informed policymaking on social insurance and related programs through research, public education, training, and the open exchange of ideas. Financial support for the brief was provided by the Ford Foundation.

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