The first phase of casualty assistance includes an initial phone call and visit to the family of the fallen soldier by the casualty assistance officer. The CAO meets with the family within 24 hours of the death notification. The CAO provides information regarding the circumstances surrounding the soldier's death, obtains an authorization for disclosure of information and provides information on the death gratuity and financial assistance.
The CAO verifies the mailing address of the fallen soldier's next of kin and verifies the accuracy of the information the fallen soldier provided to the Army, such as marital status. The officer also offers the family assistance with media interest. The CAO informs the family about the conditions of the remains. Even though it is the family's choice whether to have a viewing, the Army can offer advice on this matter based on the condition of the remains. The Army pays the death gratuity to the primary beneficiary within 72 hours of the death notification. If the family is in need of additional financial assistance, the CAO arranges for the family to meet with the Army Emergency Relief financial assistance organization or the American Red Cross, which offer financial assistance to families of fallen soldiers.