Surviving Spouse & Personal Affairs

The Personal Affairs Committee of the Florida Council of Chapters, (FCOC) intends to promote the cause of Personal Affairs with an emphasis on Survivor Assistance throughout the Florida Chapters of MOAA. The major thrusts of this efforts will be twofold:

  • To educate the membership of the importance of maintaining a complete and concise record of their personal affairs, especially as related to their military service, and making those records available to their spouse or next of kin, and,
  • To strive to insure that every Chapter has a Personal Affairs Committee and that those committees have the information, the guidance and the materials they need to carry out their responsibilities and especially to provide assistance to the spouses or next of kin of deceased military retirees.

The Personal Affairs Chairman will gladly assist any Chapters which ask for help to adapt the recommended programs to fit their individual situations. "Requests for assistance should be sent to Col. Paul Loschiavo USMC RET, Chair, Personal Affairs Committee, at"

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It is heartbreaking to hear a surviving spouse of a military retiree say "I don't know what to do or where to turn to for help." There is no good reason for this to happen, because preparing their spouse or their next of kin for their death is not only a retiree's moral responsibility, it is easy to do, especially with all the helpful aids that are currently available.

The first step a retiree should take is to assemble a list of all pertinent personal affairs documentation and explain the locations of these materials. The PERSONAL AFFAIRS WORKBOOK in the MOAA pamphlet HELP YOUR SURVIVING SPOUSE - NOW ! is an excellent aid for this project. Also there is a list of pertinent military records and related documents which can be found in the MRSAT Form 2, available for download by clicking on this link (you may need WINZIP to extract the files, WINZIP can be found by searching . Obviously, most personal affairs documents need to be carefully safeguarded in a safe or safety deposit box, but this list of document's locations needs to be kept in such a manner as to be available when needed by the retirees Spouse, NOK, Personal Representative or by a Survivor Assistance Team volunteer.

The second step a retiree should take is to prepare a Letter of Instructions to the spouse or next of kin with a copy to a Personal Representative who will act for you in case the spouse or NOK is incapacitated. This letter should address the first actions that should be taken and include directions on how to get immediate assistance and how to locate the list of other personal affairs documentation referred to in the previous paragraph. The letter should be kept in a readily available and easy to remember place. The Personal Affairs Committee has prepared a letter which will serve this purpose and only requires that the retiree fill in a few blanks to make it complete. This document can be downloaded Word. WordPerfect. Chapter Personal Affairs Chairmen are encouraged to download this letter and make it easily available to their membership.

The following statement is taken directly from the Personal Affairs page of the MOAA website,  "If a chapter aspires to the same motto as the national association's "service to country and our members," it is largely up to the personal affairs committee to provide that service". MOAA goes on to provide numerous suggestions and publications that can assist chapters in creating a Personal Affairs Committee. The website also addresses the issue of providing Survivor Assistance with links to numerous publications at this page:

But exactly how should our Florida chapters go about organizing their committee to provide these services and equipping that committee with the tools they need, especially in the area of creating a Military Retiree Survivor Assistance Team? And, why the emphasis on Survivor Assistance? Because not only is the military retiree population aging as WWII servicemen reach their 80's but also because a disproportionate number of them have moved to Florida to live out their retirement years.

And why do we keep referring to a Team instead of just a Committee? Because we, as Officers, should feel an obligation to provide assistance to the families of military retirees of all grades. In order to do this we must work with other military affiliated organizations to find volunteer retired NCOs to become team members, and then we should provide the leadership necessary to make these teams function on their own with the support, but not the domination of, our MOAA chapters.

Here is where we can draw on the years of experience of the Cape Canaveral Chapter and the publications they have created. The program is called the MILITARY RETIREE SURVIVOR ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, the basic publication is named Handbook for MRSAP Team Members and is available by clinking on the following link. Zip File Containing all of the documents.

Review the chapters by-laws as they refer to a PA committee. Amend as necessary to insure that the duties and responsibilities of the committee are clearly spelled out. For example, the committee should:

  • Maintain a library of pertinent personal affairs publications from MOAA, the VA, local military bases, or other pertinent sources.
  • Maintain a database of the addresses and telephone numbers of:
  • Casualty assistance offices at local and regional military offices and the Finance Center for each Service,
  • Veterans Administration and Social Security Offices,
  • MOAA's Personal Affairs and Survivor Assistance Services.

Provide information on entitlements to members and survivors by giving reports at Chapter Meetings, contributing regularly to the Chapter Newsletter and organizing a Email network (with "snailmail" backup) to disseminate time critical information. Assist members and surviving spouses in the submission of inquiries, applications, and claims to government agencies; e.g. military personnel offices, finance centers, VA and Social Security offices. Notify MOAA National of chapter member deaths. (By telephone, 1-800-245-8762, or by e-mail to Provide, on a monthly basis, death notices to the Secretary for update of the Member Database and to the Editor for publication in the Chapter's newsletter. Recruit a Chairperson and Co-Chairperson with emphasis on persons who enjoy helping people. Administrative and personnel experience will be extremely helpful as well. Additional committee members can be recruited depending on the size of the chapter. Suggestion: Ask MOAA for a list of all MOAA members in your geographical area. This list will be handy for recruiting chapter members as well as calculating the number of retired military personnel in your area Review the information provided on the MOAA website and decide on exactly how the committee will be set up. This is the time to request assistance from FCOC if it is needed.

Again review or revise the chapter's by-laws to provide for a Special Additional Duty which will direct the PA committee to work with other local military affiliated organizations to organize a county (or appropriate area) wide Military Retiree Survivor Assistance Program that helps the families of all services and all ranks with the special PA problems that arise with the death of a retired military member. Obtain a copy of the recommended MRSAP publications from FCOC and modify them to fit the local situation. Decide what geographical area the team will serve and how many team members will be needed. Contact all military affiliated organizations and all veteran's services organizations to set up a working relationship with them. Provide speakers to inform them about the program and to recruit members for a Retiree Survivor Assistance Team. Contact any military installations in your area to determine what support they provide for the families of deceased military retirees and how the MRSAT can coordinate and cooperate with them. Determine methods of identifying retiree deaths so that their families can be offered assistance. This could include newspaper obituaries and reports from funeral homes when they handle the funeral and burial arrangements for a military retiree Decide on how the MRSAT is to be organized: Will the chapter PA Chairman also chair the MRSAT? Who will manage all the administrative responsibilities, such a producing the publications, writing letters, creating reports etc.? Does the team need to be broken down into geographical areas? What will be the system for coordination within the team? Will regular meetings be required? How will a team member be assigned to offer assistance when a retiree death occurs? How and when will that team member close the case? How will publications and other materials be distributed and kept current? How will financial support be provided for the materials needed. Create an organizational table of team members (see MRSAT Form 3 below) and distribute that table to all agencies that may be respondent to a retirees death with instructions as to how the team should be contacted. Suggestion: Make the organizational table one of the MRSAT forms, then control and update it accordingly. Create a "Kit" for each team members use which will collect all the information and materials that the member will need when dealing with a survivor. This can be done by utilizing a large 3-ring binder to organize the material and should contain: A Handbook for MRSAP Team Members - (click link to download) Several copies of all necessary forms. The suggested forms are discussed in the Handbook, and include: MRSAP Form 1 - Death Information Checklist - used to collect information about the deceased for use when informing the necessary agencies. MRSAP Form 2 - Survivor's Worksheet - an 8 page handout that becomes the property of the next of kin and serves as a checklist. MRSAP Form 3 - The Team List or Organizational Table which is distributed to various agencies as required. MRSAP Form 4 - Death Report - to be completed by the team member to show the actions taken and when the case was closed. Various support publications are are recommended to provide the team member reference material to answer questions posed by the survivor. These include, but are not limited to, the following: Help Your Surviving Spouse - Now, available from MOAA. SBP Made Easy available from MOAA. Medicare & You 2003 the annual handbook distributed by Medicare & Medicaid Services. Tricare Choices distributed in southeastern US by Humana Healthcare Services. Reserve/National Guard Retirement Benefits, available from MOAA. TAPS - A Guide to Military Oriented Burials, available from MOAA. Consider creating other publications which have been found to be useful when dealing with survivors and the other agencies, such as. A Sympathy Card which can be used to express the condolences of the chapter and/or the team and can serve as an introduction for the team member assigned to assist. Business Cards for each team member identifying him/her as a volunteer retiree MRSAP Team Member sponsored by the chapter and/or other organizations. Suggestion - Use the back of the card for a brief explanation of the program. Conduct a training session for MRSAP Team Members, utilizing the most experienced individuals available to conduct the training. If an appropriate person is not available locally to the chapter, make a request to FCOC for support. Go to Work - Good Luck

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