Understanding the Role of the Casualty Assistance Officer
In its effort to ensure that military families have support in their time of need when a service member is declared deceased, whereabouts unknown or missing, the Department of Defense's Casualty Assistance Program assigns a dedicated casualty assistance officer to advise and assist the primary next of kin.
Your casualty assistance officer
In such cases, a casualty assistance officer is to assist the primary next of kin. Separate assistance officers will also be assigned to the parents of married service members, who are considered the secondary next of kin.
Each military service branch has different titles for their casualty assistance officers. Although the titles may differ, the services provided are the same.
- Army — Casualty Assistance Officer
- Marine Corps — Casualty Assistance Calls Officer
- Navy — Casualty Assistance Calls Officer
- Air Force — Casualty Assistance Representative
- Coast Guard — Casualty Assistance Calls Officer
Meeting your casualty assistance officer
Shortly after you've been notified of your loved one's status, you'll receive a phone call from your casualty assistance officer to arrange a visit, unless your casualty assistance officer is the one who notified you of your loved one's status. The officer will do the following:
- Ask if you have immediate concerns
- Confirm your mailing address
- Arrange to meet with you at the earliest time and place convenient to you. It's important to meet with your casualty assistance officer as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours of his or her call.
The first assistance visit will be brief, probably lasting less than an hour. When you meet your casualty assistance officer, you may be asked for the following information:
- A mailing address where you may be reached for the next 45 days. If this is not the same as your current mailing address, you should provide both your current and future addresses.
- Verification of all known family members including the marital status of your loved one and any previous marriages, and copies of divorce decrees and child custody orders.
- Identification of all the service member's children. Please don't be offended if your casualty assistance officer asks you whether a loved one was married before and if there are any children from that or other relationships.
- Verification of names other than his or her given name — nickname, middle name or maiden name — your loved one was known by.
Your casualty assistance officer will schedule a follow-up visit soon after the initial visit and will continue to schedule as many follow-up visits as necessary. Depending on your branch of service, you may also meet with a mortuary affairs officer. During these meetings, you will discuss payment of the death gratuity, preparation for the funeral, any honors due to your loved one and any questions you may have.