(WASHINGTON) -- Veterans and their families may be eligible to receive unclaimed funds totaling about $33 million, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans' advocacy groups say many veterans' families have no idea the money is there.
"A life insurance policy could make a huge difference for the veteran's family, but only if they know who to contact and how to claim it," said Peg Bergeron, executive director of the American Military Retirees Association.
Unclaimed life-insurance policy payments, dividend checks and refunds -- about $33 million in all -- have accumulated since the beginning of the Veterans Affairs insurance programs in 1917. The unclaimed payments can go up to $4,000, but are typically between $5 and $750, according to Thomas Lastowka, director for insurance for the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Lastowka said the amount is dependent on the premium that the solider chose to pay in the original policy, and cautioned that many families would not find they are eligible for funds.
About 25 million people have enrolled in the insurance programs since World War I, according to Lastowka. The bulk of the unclaimed funds date from World War II, when about 22 million people enrolled.
He urged veterans' families to check if they are eligible through the Veterans Affairs website: https://insurance.va.gov/liability/ufsearch.htm. Family members should have a veteran's name, date of birth, death and, if possible, the insurance policy number.
Lastowka said the website, which the department launched seven years ago, is the fastest method to determine if a family member is eligible for a payment. There is also a toll-free phone number, 1-800-669-8477.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio