VA burial benefits are available for service-connected and non-service-connected deaths. Eligibility for non-service-connected burial expenses generally requires receipt of VA compensation, VA pension, or military retired pay in lieu of compensation at the time of death, a claim pending at the time of death that is later determined to have entitled the deceased veteran to compensation or pension before death, death while hospitalized or receiving care in a VA facility, or the veteran’s estate does not have enough resources to cover costs and the veteran served during wartime or was released from active duty due to a service-connected condition. A veteran who dies while under VA care or in a VA-approved state nursing home is also eligible.
Benefits for a non-service-connected death are $300 for funeral and burial expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death) and up to $762 for plot or internment expenses (if not buried in a National Cemetery). If the veteran was hospitalized by VA at the time of death, VA will pay up to $762 toward the burial and funeral expenses for deaths on or after October 1, 2017. An application for burial expenses must submitted within 2 years of burial.
Burial benefits for service-connected deaths include a burial allowance of up to $2,000 for deaths on or after September 11, 2001. There is no time limit for applying for this allowance. No other amounts will be paid if this allowance is claimed. If requested by VA, supporting documentation must be provided within a year of the request. There is no time limit for submitting an application for plot or internment expenses.
An important benefit is burial in a grave-site in one of the 131 National Cemeteries with available space. If eligible, this benefit includes opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government-provided headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate at no cost to the family. The principal criteria for a veteran’s burial in a National Cemetery are an other than dishonorable discharge and completion of a required period of service or entitlement to retired pay due to 20 years of service with a reserve unit. A spouse, minor child, or unmarried dependent adult child of an eligible veteran is also eligible for burial in a National Cemetery.
Grave-sites in VA National Cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance and VA national cemetery directors have the primary responsibility for verifying eligibility for burial in a National Cemetery. A determination of eligibility is usually made in response to a request for burial. A VA Regional Office can also assist in determining eligibility.
Burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a National Cemetery include burial with the veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependents name and date of birth and death inscribed on the veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family. Eligible spouses and dependents may be buried in a National Cemetery, even if they predecease the veteran.
Families should keep in mind that VA does not make funeral arrangements or perform cremations. VA also does not provide military honors at veterans’ funerals. The Department of Defense, through the “Honoring Those Who Served” program, provides military funeral services. Upon a family’s request or at the behest of the funeral home on behalf of a family, the program provides each eligible veteran a military funeral honors ceremony to include the folding and the presentation of the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps.
Burial benefits available for veterans buried in a private cemetery include:
- a government-provided headstone or marker,
- a burial flag, and
- Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family.
- Some veterans may also be eligible for a burial allowance.
There are no VA benefits available to spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery. Similarly, only an eligible veteran may receive a government-furnished headstone or marker for placement in a private cemetery. A veteran’s spouse and dependent children are not eligible.
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