If you are a service member, veteran, military spouse, or family member, it is important to know what funeral benefits are available to you. The Veterans Administration (VA) offers a number of burial and funeral benefits.
Read along to learn who is eligible, what is offered, and much more.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers monetary and material benefits and services to eligible deceased veterans.
The VA offers burial and funeral benefits to all members of the armed forces who’ve met their minimum active duty requirements or have served for 24 consecutive months. Members are only eligible if they were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Reservists and National Guard members are also eligible, although they must be entitled to or eligible for retirement pay. Military family members, including spouses and dependent children, are also eligible for these benefits.
The VA offers a one-time monetary reimbursement for a veteran or military family member’s burial expenses. They will also cover some or all of the cost to transport the deceased to a VA national cemetery.
The VA will pay up to $2,000 toward the burial and funeral expenses of veterans who are victims of service-related deaths. If the veteran is being buried in a VA national cemetery, the VA will cover some or all of the cost of transportation of the deceased.
The VA will pay approximately $780 toward the burial and/or $780 toward the plot of a veteran who was hospitalized by the VA at their time of death. Meanwhile, they will pay $300 toward the burial and/or $762 toward the plot of a veteran who was not hospitalized by the VA at their time of death. These rates reflect a recent change in the VA’s policy and only apply to veterans who died on or after October 1, 2017. All monetary benefits are tax-free.
Who is Eligible for Reimbursement?
You may receive a burial reimbursement if you paid for a veteran’s burial or funeral. You may not receive the benefit if you have already been reimbursed by another government agency or the veteran’s employer.
The VA does not reimburse burial and funeral costs for prisoners, active military service members, or members of Congress holding office.
The VA provides all eligible veterans with a gravesite in a VA national cemetery. There are 136 national cemeteries across the country. Grave sites cannot be reserved and are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Eligible spouses and dependent children may also be buried in a national cemetery alongside a veteran. This includes military family members who predecease a veteran.
No preference is given when granting gravesite assignments. A single headstone or marker and gravesite are provided for all eligible family members. Whereas, side-by-side headstones and grave sites are available when both spouses are veterans or qualifying service members.
Headstone or Marker
The VA provides a no-cost government-issued headstone or marker for the burial site of any eligible veteran. Headstones and markers are issued upon request and can be used in any cemetery in the world. They can be issued at any time following the death of a veteran.
This benefit applies to any eligible veteran who died after November 1, 1990. This benefit can be used to supplement a privately purchased headstone.
Flat markers are available in granite, marble, and bronze. Meanwhile, upright headstones are available in granite and marble. Niche markers for cremated remains are available in bronze.
Upright headstones are 42 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 4 inches thick. They weigh around 230 pounds. Meanwhile, flat bronze markers are 24 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 3/4 inch thick. They must be attached to a base. Flat granite and marble markers are 24 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 4 inches thick. Finally, niche markers are 8 1/2 inches long, 5 1/2 inches wide, and 7/16 inch thick.
Memorial headstones and markers are also available for deceased active duty service members whose remains have not been recovered. These headstones and markers are inscribed with the words, “IN MEMORY OF” followed by the deceased veteran’s name. They are only for use in designated VA national cemeteries.
The headstone or marker will be inscribed with the veteran’s name at no cost to the family.
VA national cemetery is fully responsible for setting a headstone or marker. They do not charge a fee for this service. However, the cost of setting a headstone or marker in a private or state cemetery is the responsibility of the veteran’s family.
Headstones and markers are typically set within 60 days of a veteran’s burial.
Veterans who served on or after April 6, 1917, are eligible for a government-issued medallion. Medallions are engraved with the deceased veteran’s status and military service. The medallion can be applied to both privately purchased and government-issued headstones and markers.
Bronze medallions are available in small, medium, and large. They are inscribed with the word “VETERAN” and the deceased veteran’s final branch of service. Medal of Honor medallions come in sizes medium and large. They are inscribed with the words “MEDAL OF HONOR” and the deceased veteran’s final branch of service.
To receive a medallion, survivors must submit a completed VA Form 40-1330M, or “Claim for Government Medallion for Placement in a Private Cemetery.”
Burial at Sea
Active-duty members, retirees, veterans of uniformed services may be eligible for burial at sea from a U.S. military vessel. This time-honored tradition is tailored toward members of the navy and marines.
The U.S. burial benefit may be used to reimburse the cost of cremation services. Cremated remains are also eligible to be buried or interred in a VA national cemetery.
The National Cemetery Association provides a United States burial flag that can be draped over a casket or set alongside an urn. After the funeral, family members may contribute their burial flag for use in an Avenue of Flags.
Presidential Memorial Certificates
Each veteran receives a Presidential Memorial Certificate (PCM). This is a document signed by the current President. Next of kin, friends, and relatives of a deceased veteran may request a PCM by filling out the VA Form 40-0247, also known as the Presidential Memorial Certificate Request Form.
If you are the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a recently deceased veteran, you may be eligible for VA benefits. Contact your state’s Veterans Benefits Administration to learn more. Benefits include home loans, survivors’ pensions, compensation, educational assistance, and more.
Funeral Services are not available at VA national cemeteries. Instead, a cemetery administrator will provide you with burial documentation and provide a final committal service prior to burial. In addition, the Department of Defense may provide additional Military Funeral honors, including the ceremonial folding of the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps.
How to Receive Benefits?
Military spouses are automatically paid a set burial and plot allowance. If the spouse is not automatically paid, the VA will issue the allowance to the first eligible person to submit a claim. Beyond that, the VA may provide additional benefits if claims are submitted.
Submitting an Application
To apply for burial benefits, you must submit a completed VA Form 21P-530, “Application for Burial Benefits” and submit it along with a veteran’s discharge document and death certificate.
You also need to submit proof of payment for the burial and/or funeral of the eligible funeral. You can also wish to attach receipts for transportation expenses that you are seeking reimbursement for. Applications can be mailed to the Veterans Administration benefit office in your state.
You can find information regarding VA national cemeteries or schedule a burial, visit the National Cemetery Administration website.
Veterans can help their families by providing them with their official discharge papers. Veterans may also apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination. These applications are not prioritized over immediate need requests. Veterans can use VA form 2900-0784 for pre-need determination.
It is never easy dealing with the grief and responsibility of putting a loved one to rest. Still, understanding your veteran’s funeral and burial benefits ensures that your loved one has been laid to rest with the honor they deserve.