Almost 6,000 servicemembers died from October 2001 through September 2005. The Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) provide assistance to survivors of servicemembers who die on active duty. This assistance includes but is not limited to making funeral arrangements, applying for federal benefits, providing relocation assistance, and coordinating with other agencies. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 required GAO to assess casualty assistance provided to survivors of servicemembers. For this report, GAO reviewed the extent to which DOD has (1) an oversight framework and standards to monitor the assistance it provides to survivors of these deceased servicemembers and (2) visibility over the costs of its casualty assistance programs. GAO also reviewed the roles of VA and SSA in providing casualty assistance. In conducting this review, GAO analyzed agency documents and interviewed program officials, limiting its scope to federal programs.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||To improve DOD's ability to effectively manage its casualty assistance programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop an oversight framework that includes measurable DOD-wide objectives for casualty assistance programs, DOD-wide outcome measures to evaluate aspects of its programs, such as survivors' satisfaction with assistance they received from casualty assistance officers, and clearly link program performance with these objectives, and requirements for the services to report on these outcome measures so that DOD can use the reports to monitor the casualty assistance programs' performance and make fact-based decisions about the program operations and resources.|
|Department of Defense||To improve DOD's ability to effectively manage its casualty assistance programs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to incorporate standards, such as a comprehensive checklist of duties for casualty assistance officers, when revising its casualty assistance policy.|