TN 31 (08-23)

GN 00304.005 Preferred Evidence of Death

A. Preferred order for evidence of death

Obtain preferred order of evidence of death for initial claims processing, if it is available.

Preferred evidence is a:

  • Death certificate; or

  • Form SSA-721 (Statement of Death By Funeral Director); or

  • Master Beneficiary Record (only when the date of death is prior to December 5, 2015); or

  • Numident record that shows death data based on an Electronic Death Registration (EDR) report (GN 00304.100); or

  • Numident record that shows a "proven" (POD:P) Date of Death, see GN 00304.100B.3.b.


An obituary is not considered proof of death. We can use the obituary only as a lead to obtain other acceptable evidence of death.

B. How to obtain evidence of death

To obtain evidence of death follow the instructions below that relate to the circumstances of the death:

1. Civilian Death in U.S. or Body Returned to U.S.

When a civilian dies in the U.S. or a civilian dies outside the U.S. and the body is returned to the U.S., obtain evidence of death from a U.S. source (e.g., a certified copy of the public record of death). Obtain one of these proofs:

  1. a. 

    A copy of, or a statement as to, the contents of the public record of death certified by the custodian or the field office (FO) employee;

  2. b. 

    A statement of death on an Statement of SSA-795 Claimant or Other Person executed by the attending physician, superintendent, physician, or intern of the institution where death occurred or was confirmed; The statement should read:

    I am an authorized practitioner of medicine in the State of and attended (Name of deceased) who died (Date).”

  3. c. 

    A certified copy of the coroner's report of death or verdict of the coroner's jury of the State or community where death occurred; or

  4. d. 

    An SSA-721 or other statement executed by the funeral director or authorized representative as indicated on the form.


    Funeral directors in states that register deaths via the Electronic Death Registration (EDR) are discouraged from sending the SSA-721 to the FOs because we should already have EDR records which are verified proofs of death. EDR allows us to receive a proof of death report from the State SSA-721within 24 hours of the State’s receipt in its repository and within five (5) days of death. Funeral directors using EDR, however, are encouraged to continue to provide members of the public with the “fact sheet” portion of the SSA-721, which provides important information about who is eligible for benefits and how to apply for them. For instructions on using the Numident death data as preferred proof of death, see the instructions in GN 00304.100B.3.a.

IMPORTANT: Do not use an SSA-721 to establish death when a funeral director is filing on their spouse's record.


2. Civilian Dies Outside U.S. or body returned to the U.S.

If a civilian or U.S. National dies outside the U.S., obtain one of the following:

  1. a. 

    A U.S. Consul or other State Department agent report of death bearing the State Department official’s signature and the official seal, if readily available;


    U.S. consular offices obtain information on deaths of all U.S. citizens that occur in their districts. To obtain copies of death records prepared overseas for civilians and merchant seamen, domestic offices should request the applicant to contact the designated consular post directly and obtain the necessary evidence. However, if the applicant is experiencing problems that are out of their control, as described in GN 00301.180, domestic offices may contact Office of Earnings and International Operations (OEIO) to obtain additional assistance. Contact can be made to the appropriate Foreign Benefits Unit (FBU) using the electronic e562 or send a Modernized Development Worksheet (MDW) to the Division of International Operations (DIO). See GN 00904.220 Requests for Assistance in Foreign Cases. For mail requests, send to:

    Social Security Administration

    P.O. BOX 17769

    Baltimore, MD 21235-7769


    If a claimant provides a U.S. Consular Report of Death Abroad issued by the State Department, in addition to a local death certificate issued by a foreign country, use the document issued by the U.S. agency as preferred evidence if DOD is not inconsistent. If DOD is inconsistent, follow procedures in GN 00304.001C.2.

  2. b. 

    A finding by the Bureau of Employee's Compensation;

  3. c. 

    An official report of death on civilian personnel from a military department;

  4. d. 

    A telegram or signed communication from the Coast Guard or from the owner, operator, or master of the vessel on which the deceased served or was a passenger;

  5. e. 

    A certified copy of the ship's log on which the deceased served or was a passenger.


    If the decedent was not a U.S. citizen, see GN 300.200A.2.

3. Member of the U.S. Armed Forces Dies

Obtain one of the following, which shows the date of death, if readily available:



Report of Casualty

  • Government agencies generally furnish this report (e.g., DD-1300) automatically by service departments

  • To use this form as a claims lead, see RS 01702.370

Official Report of Death or any other official report, signed communication, or telegram from the Washington, D.C. headquarters or proper army service command or naval district or from any of the commanding officers under whom the deceased served at the time of their death, which shows the date of death.

  • For deaths that occurred on U.S. Army installations (both military and civilian), write to:

Adjutant General

Department of the Army

Temp B Building


2nd and R Streets SW

Washington, DC 20315

  • For deaths on U.S. Air Force installations, write to:

Department of the Air Force, HQ

USAF Directorate of Personnel Service

Randolph AFB, TX 78148

  • For deaths on U.S. Naval installations (including Marine Corps personnel), write to:

Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

Department of the Navy

Washington, DC 20520

  • For deaths of Coast Guard personnel, write to:

Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

Washington, DC 20226

Citation from President of U.S.

If available, request from the claimant.

To Link to this section - Use this URL:
GN 00304.005 - Preferred Evidence of Death - 08/14/2023
Batch run: 08/14/2023