The Decedent Affairs Program consists of the search, recovery, identification, care, and disposition of remains of deceased personnel for whom the Department of the Navy is responsible.
The Medical Department or the Medical Department representative is usually called on to assist with the functions prescribed above for deaths occurring within its area of responsibility.
Large medical treatment facilities and commands usually appoint a decedent affairs officer. However, the Navy has a significant number of small independent operational units that are inherently hazardous and have a responsibility for a number of personnel. It is for this reason that senior corpsmen, especially those on independent duty, must have a working knowledge of decedent affairs procedures as promulgated in BUMEDINST 5360.1, Decedent Affairs Manual. This reference should therefore be consulted for specific procedures and requirements.
Deceased personnel who are the responsibility of the Navy are cared for in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy and Marine Corps, The Decedent Affairs Program can best be termed as high visibility. Survivors of the deceased are provided the highest level of compassionate services and are given all possible consideration within the limits of existing statutes and directives. Recovery and identification must be accomplished as rapidly as possible consistent with the highest standards of professional care. Information must be released as quickly as possible to the next of kin (NOK) and minimum time should elapse between death and the return of remains. The services death programs are coordinated at the departmental level within the Department of Defense to assure uniformity in procedures.
The Casualty Assistance Calls Program (CACP) is administered by the Commander, Naval Military Personnel Command (COMNAVMILPERSCOM) and the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC). Although integrally related, the CACP is not identified as part of the Decedent Affairs Program. The CACP details a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO), usually an officer (although senior enlisted personnel may be used), to personally contact the NOK. The CACO assists the NOK with items ranging from the disposition of remains and survivor benefits, to obtaining the rights and privileges that the NOK of active duty members or active and inactive duty for training members are entitled.
The Navy and Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Calls Programs are operated differently. The individual service instructions noted below should be consulted for specifics.
1. NAVPERS 15560, Naval Military Personnel Manual.
2. NAVMILPERSCOMINST 1770.1, Casualty Assistance Calls Program Manual.
3. MCO P3040.4, Marine Corps Casualty Procedures Manual.
This part of the overall Decedent Affairs Program provides professional mortuary services, supplies, and related services incident to the care and disposition of remains of persons eligible for these services. The program is operational on a worldwide basis during peacetime and may continue to exist in an area of conflict during major military operations, depending on the tactical situation and logistical support capability.