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Death in Service

What Is a Death-in-Service Benefit?

A death-in-service benefit is a lump-sum payment of the balance in a VRS member’s contribution account, if any, to a named beneficiary. If the named beneficiary is the member’s spouse, a natural or legally adopted minor child or a parent, he or she may elect a lump-sum payment or a monthly benefit. The death-in-service benefit is in addition to any other benefits the beneficiary may have.

Types of the death-in-service benefit:

A work-related cause of death is the result of an occupational illness or injury and the cause is determined to be work-related under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. If an employee dies from a work-related cause while an active VRS member, the employee’s named beneficiary will be eligible for a lump-sum payment of any funds remaining in the member contribution account.

In addition, the employee’s spouse, natural or legally adopted minor child or parent will be eligible for a monthly benefit whether or not that person is a named beneficiary. If one of these individuals is the named beneficiary, he or she will receive a monthly benefit in addition to the refund of the member’s contributions. In addition, the member’s survivor may be eligible for a workers’ compensation survivor benefit.

If the employee is vested and dies while an active VRS member from a non-work-related cause, the member’s named beneficiary will be eligible for a lump-sum payment of any funds remaining in the member contribution account.

If the member is not vested, either the member’s designated beneficiary or, if none, the member’s beneficiary based on order of precedence will be eligible for a lump-sum payment only.

Non-Work-Related Monthly Benefit Calculation: The non-work-related monthly benefit is calculated based on the member’s average final compensation , total service credit, VRS retirement plan, age, and the age of the member’s eligible named beneficiary at the time of the member’s death.

Order of Precedence: If the member dies while an active member from a non-work-related cause and there is no valid beneficiary designation on file or the named beneficiary is deceased, VRS will pay a death-in-service benefit according to the order of precedence , as required by law.

Encourage VRS members to keep their beneficiary form(s) up to date. When an employee asks you about making changes to their health insurance or other benefits, that's a good time to ask them to consider their beneficiary designations. For more information, see Naming a Beneficiary.

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

If a member dies in service and the survivor or beneficiary is eligible for a monthly death-in-service benefit, he or she will be eligible for a COLA effective July 1 following one full calendar year (January 1 to December 31) from the date the monthly benefit begins. Read more about the COLA.

In the Event of a Member’s Death

If a VRS member dies while in service, you will likely assist in coordinating any benefits that may be due. In addition to the death-in-service benefit, there are a number of things you can do to assist the beneficiary:

  • Life Insurance: Read a summary about how to handle Life Insurance.

  • Line of Duty Benefits: If applicable, let the beneficiary know that they may be eligible for Line of Duty benefits.

  • Survivor Option: At retirement, the member may have chosen to have a monthly benefit continue to a survivor upon the member’s death. You can refer a survivor to Benefit Payout Options.

  • Savings Plans: If the member participated in employer-sponsored, tax-deferred savings plans, such as 403(b), 457 or 401(k) plans, you can instruct the beneficiary to contact the plan record keeper.

  • Social Security: You can advise the beneficiary to contact the Social Security Administration to determine if Social Security death benefits are payable.

  • A Helpful Guide: You can provide the member’s beneficiary with the Losing a Loved One: Guide for Families brochure.

Get Support

Have questions about VRS benefits? Contact the Employer Support Team.

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