In Elder Law News

Folded American flag for a veteran's burial service lies outside on a glass stand with roses.Although death benefits are available to veterans, as well as their families and veterans who did not engage in combat, less than half of those who are eligible for death benefits use them, according to the American Association of Retired People. Available veterans death benefits may include burial in a national cemetery, compensation for expenses, or grave markers for private cemeteries. 

Burial in VA National Cemeteries: Who Is Eligible?

While many believe that death benefits are only available for those who fought in combat, most veterans are eligible to be buried in a Veterans Administration (VA) national cemetery.

To qualify for these benefits, the veteran’s discharge must not have been dishonorable. They must have received care from a VA facility, gotten a VA pension, or passed away while serving or because of a service-connected disability.

Veterans’ spouses, minor children, and unmarried adult dependent children may also be able to qualify for veterans death benefits, allowing them to be buried in national cemeteries alongside their loved ones.

Veterans Burial Benefits: Help for Families

Individuals who make funeral arrangements for qualifying deceased veterans can receive compensation to cover the expenses. To obtain benefits, an individual must have paid for the burial, transportation, or funeral costs. The person must have also either been a close family member or managed the estate.

For instance, a friend named executor of the estate and tasked with making final arrangements could use the veteran’s death benefits to cover the costs associated with a memorial service.

If your loved one is a veteran, you could receive compensation for up to $2,000 of funeral expenses. For those buried in a national cemetery, benefits provided at no cost include a gravesite, services to open and close the grave, and maintenance of the gravesite.

Additional benefits can include the following:

Inurnment or burial of cremated remains occurs with the same honors as a traditional burial.

When a spouse or dependent of a veteran passes away, they may qualify to be buried with the veteran, and their names added to headstones at no cost. Even if they predecease the veteran, veterans death benefits cover their burial in a national or private cemetery. This allows veterans to be buried beside their loved ones.

Making Advance Arrangements

While veterans do not need to plan their funerals and burials ahead of time, the VA does preapprove national cemetery burials. Preapproval involves determining whether you are eligible, selecting a VA national cemetery, and filling out an application.

Even if you do not preplan your services, let your loved ones know where you have stored your discharge papers.

Headstone Markers

As an alternative to being buried in a national cemetery, veterans and active-duty service members may also receive headstones, markers, and medallions if laid to rest in a private cemetery.

  • This is available to veterans buried in unmarked graves anywhere in the world.
  • Headstones, markers, and medallions are also available for graves marked with privately purchased headstones for veterans who died on or after November 1, 1990.

Those who served as enlisted personnel after September 7, 1980, or as officers after October 16, 1981, must have either died while serving on active duty or served for at least two years of continuous active duty.

Additional Resources

Surviving family members can consult Burial Benefits for Veterans and their Families. This guide created by the VA offers details to families on how to make final arrangements. To learn more, you also can call your local VA office or 800-827-1000 (TTY is 711).

Funeral directors can assist with obtaining burial flags, ordering headstones, requesting military funeral honors, and more. A local, qualified attorney can also help families obtain veterans death benefits and make arrangements for their final resting places. An attorney can help make funeral and death arrangements in advance so that families do not have to worry. If a death is sudden, an attorney can also help surviving loved ones access death benefits.

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