This is a brief overview of Veteran's Benefits. If you need further information, you can contact the Veteran's Administration at www.va.gov or call toll free 827-1000.
Burial and Memorial Benefits
Veterans discharged from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable and service members who die while on active duty, as well as spouses and dependent children of veterans and active duty service members, may be eligible for VA burial and memorial benefits. The veteran does not have to pre-decease a spouse or dependent child for them to be eligible.
With certain exceptions, active duty service beginning after Sept. 7, 1980, as an enlisted person, and after Oct. 16, 1981, as an officer, must be for a minimum of 24 consecutive months or the full period of active duty (as in the case of reservists or National Guard members called to active duty for a limited duration). Eligibility is not established by active duty for training in the reserves or National Guard.
Reservists and National Guard members, as well as their spouses and dependent children, are eligible if they were entitled to retired pay at the time of death, or would have been if they were over age 60.
VA national cemetery directors verify eligibility for burial in their cemeteries. A copy of the veterans discharge document that specifies the period(s) of active duty and character of discharge, along with the deceaseds death certificate and proof of relationship to the veteran (for eligible family members) are all that are usually needed to determine eligibility.
This chapter contains information on the full range of VA burial and memorial benefits. Readers with questions should contact the nearest national cemetery, listed by state in the VA Facilities section of this book, call 1-800-827-1000, or visit the website at http://www.cem.va.gov/.
VA National Cemeteries
Burial in a VA national cemetery is available for eligible veterans, their spouses and dependents at no cost to the family and includes the gravesite, grave-liner, opening and closing of the grave, a headstone or marker, and perpetual care as part of a national shrine. For veterans, benefits also include a burial flag (with case for active duty) and military funeral honors. Family members and other loved ones of deceased veterans may request Presidential Memorial Certificates.
VA operates 124 national cemeteries, of which 84 are open for new interments and 20 of these accept only cremated remains. Burial options are limited to those available at a specific cemetery but may include in-ground casket, or interment of cremated remains in a columbarium, in ground or in a scatter garden. Contact the nearest national cemetery to determine if it is open for new burials and which options are available.
Seven new national cemeteries are scheduled to open in the next few years near the cities of Bakersfield, Calif.; Birmingham, Ala.; Greenville, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Sarasota, Fla.; and West Palm Beach, Fla.
The funeral director or the next of kin makes interment arrangements by contacting the national cemetery in which burial is desired. VA normally does not conduct burials on weekends. Gravesites cannot be reserved; however VA will honor reservations made under previous programs.
Surviving spouses of veterans who died on or after Jan.1, 2000, do not lose eligibility for burial in a national cemetery if they remarry. Burial of dependent children is limited to unmarried children under 21 years of age, or under 23 years of age if a full-time student at an approved educational institution. Unmarried adult children who become physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support before age 21, or age 23 if a full-time student, also are eligible for burial.
VA Provides Inscribed Headstones and Markers for Veterans Graves
Veterans, active duty service members, retired reservists, and National Guard service members are eligible for an inscribed headstone or marker to mark their grave at any cemetery -- national, state veterans, or private. The headstone or marker will be delivered at no cost, anywhere in the world. Spouses and dependent children are eligible for a government headstone or marker only if they are buried in a national or state veterans cemetery.
Flat markers are available in bronze, granite or marble. Upright headstones come in granite or marble. In national cemeteries, the style chosen must be consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Niche markers are available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.
Headstones and markers previously provided by the government may be replaced at the governments expense if badly deteriorated, illegible, vandalized or stolen. To check the status of an application for a headstone or marker for a national or state veterans cemetery, call the cemetery. To check the status of one being placed in a private cemetery, call 1-800-697-6947.
Inscription: Headstones and markers must be inscribed with the name of the deceased, branch of service, and year of birth and death. They also may be inscribed with other markings, including an authorized emblem of belief and, space permitting, additional text including military rank; war service such as World War II complete dates of birth and death; military awards; military organizations; civilian or veteran affiliations; and words of endearment.
Private Cemeteries: To apply for a headstone or marker for a private cemetery, mail a completed VA Form 40-1330 (available at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-1330.pdf), Application for Standard Government Headstone or Marker for Installation in a Private Cemetery or a State Veterans Cemetery, and a copy of the veterans military discharge document and death certificate to Memorial Programs Service (41A1), Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Rd., Quantico, VA 22134-3903. Or fax documents to 1-800-455-7143. (To read PDF documents, you need a PDF viewer. A free PDF Reader is available here.)
For veteran deaths occurring on or after Sept. 11, 2001, VA will provide a government headstone or marker even if the grave is already marked with a private one. Before ordering, check with the cemetery to ensure that the additional headstone or marker will be accepted. Any placement fee will not be reimbursed by VA.
In Memory Of Markers: VA provides memorial headstones and markers, bearing the inscription In Memory Of as the first line, to memorialize those whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science or cremated and scattered. Eligibility is the same for regular headstones and markers. There is no fee when the In Memory Of marker is placed in a national cemetery. Any fees associated with placement in another cemetery will not be reimbursed by VA.
Presidential Memorial Certificates Issued to Next of Kin Upon Request
Certificates are issued upon request to recognize the military service of honorably discharged deceased veterans. Next of kin, relatives and friends may request them in person at any VA regional office or by mail: Presidential Memorial Certificates (41A1C), Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Rd., Quantico, VA 22143-3903 or fax documents to 202-565-8054.
No form is required and there is no time limit for requesting a certificate(s), but requests should include a copy of the veteran's discharge document and death certificate and clearly indicate to what address the certificate(s) should be sent. Information and a sample certificate can be found at: http://www.cem.va.gov/pmc.asp.
Burial Flags Furnished by VA
VA will furnish a U.S. burial flag for memorialization of:
- Veterans who served during wartime or after Jan. 31, 1955.
- Veterans who were entitled to retired pay for service in the reserves, or would have been entitled if over age 60.
- Members or former members of the Selected Reserve who served their initial obligation, or were discharged for a disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, or died while a member of the Selected Reserve.
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veterans death is service-connected. In such cases, the person who bore the veterans burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA.
In some cases, VA will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-connected veteran to the nearest national cemetery with available gravesites. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims in service-connected death cases.
Burial Allowance: VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral allowance for veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled if they weren't receiving military retirement pay. Eligibility also may be established when death occurs in a VA facility, a VA-contracted nursing home or a state veterans nursing home. In non service-connected death cases, claims must be filed within two years after burial or cremation.
Plot Allowance: VA will pay a $300 plot allowance when a veteran is buried in a cemetery not under U.S. government jurisdiction if: the veteran was discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; the veteran was receiving compensation or pension or would have been if they weren't receiving military retired pay; or they died in a VA facility.
The $300 plot allowance may be paid to the state for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials if the veteran is buried without charge. Burial expenses paid by the deceased's employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed.
Military Funeral Honors Provided by DOD Upon Request at Veterans Funerals
Upon request, DOD will provide military funeral honors consisting of folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of Taps. A funeral honors detail consists of two or more uniformed members of the armed forces, with at least one member from the deceased's branch of service.
Family members should inform their funeral directors if they want military funeral honors. DOD maintains a toll-free number (1-877-MIL-HONR) for use by funeral directors only to request honors. VA can help arrange honors for burials at VA national cemeteries. Veterans service organizations or volunteer groups may help provide honors. For more information, visit http://www.militaryfuneralhonors.osd.mil/.
Veterans Cemeteries Administered by Other Agencies
Arlington National Cemetery : Administered by the Department of the Army. Eligibility is more restrictive than at VA national cemeteries. For information, call (703) 607-8000, write Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211, or visit http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/.
State Veterans Cemeteries: Sixty-three state veterans cemeteries offer burial options for veterans and their families. These cemeteries have similar eligibility requirements but usually require some residence. Some services, particularly for family members, may require a fee. Contact the state cemetery or state veterans affairs office for information. To locate a state veterans cemetery, visit http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/scg/lsvc.asp.
Department of the Interior: Administers two active national cemeteries: Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Tennessee. Eligibility is similar to VA cemeteries.