Written By Peter Gaytan
The amount paid for burial expenses varies according to the circumstances surrounding the veteran’s death. If the death is service related, the VA pays up to $2,000 toward burial expenses. If the vet is buried in a VA national cemetery, some of the costs for transporting the remains may be reimbursed.
If the death is not service-related, the VA pays up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses. There is also a $300 plot-interment allowance. Even if the death is not service-related, if the veteran died in a VA hospital or in VA-approved home care, transport of the remains to the cemetery may be partially reimbursed.
The person who has paid for the veteran’s burial or funeral may claim this reimbursement provided he has not already been reimbursed by another government agency
or some other source such as the veteran’s employer. For example, the families of Federal employees who die from an injury sustained in the line of duty (of their non-military job) may be paid a death gratuity of up to $10,000. Additionally, the family may receive up to $800 payable by the Department of Labor to a surviving spouse or children for funeral expenses of a Federal employee who died as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty. If they receive these monies, they are not eligible for reimbursement by the VA.
If You Choose To Be Buried In A National Cemetery
While you can’t reserve a plot in a national cemetery, a licensed funeral home can readily make arrangements for burial when the need arises. While scheduling a burial can be made seven days a week, internment is only possible Monday through Fridays. Burial in a national cemetery also includes perpetual care of the gravesite at no cost to the family.
Your survivors will need to provide a copy of your discharge documents in order to prove your active military duty service and that your discharge was NOT under dishonorable conditions. The cemetery will need certain kinds of information. Help your survivors by collecting the following information in advance (they will need to add the date and place of death), and putting it together with your discharge papers).
» Your full name and military rank
» Branch of service
» Social Security Number
» Service Number
» VA claim number, if applicable
» Date and place of birth
» Date of retirement or last separation from active duty
There are no viewing facilities available at National cemeteries nor can funeral services be held there. A final committal service (right before interment) may be held, but not at graveside. These services are held in committal shelters at a distance from the grave. Burial follows.
If You Choose To Buried In A Private Cemetery
If you do not want to be buried in a national cemetery, you are still eligible for other burial benefits including: a military honor guard, a flag, and a headstone/marker. Your family will need to provide eligibility information to the cemetery director.
Some private cemeteries may offer “free” gravesites to veterans. If you are making pre-burial arrangements, make sure you get in writing what the cemetery is offering and what is required. Leave those papers in a safe place, with the other information for your family.
If you expect your family to make the necessary arrangements, make sure they understand that “free” may come with some serious and expensive requirements attached to the offer. Some cemeteries offer a free gravesite to the veteran, but insist that an additional gravesite be purchased, and not necessarily adjacent to the veteran’s plot. There may be restrictions on the type of headstone or marker that may be used to mark the grave; there may be a charge for setting the free government headstone or for the base that is used for the marker. In other words, the “free” gravesite may be more costly than burial in other private cemeteries. It would be nice to think that no one would take advantage of a family at a time like this – but unfortunately, that isn’t always true.
If You Choose Burial At Sea
All veterans, not just those who served in the Navy or Coast Guard, are eligible for burial at sea (or to have their cremated remains scattered at sea). The Navy and Coast Guard provide this service. However, the family may not witness the burial. It is done at a time and place that is convenient for the military. There are specific requirements for embalming the body and for the casket that must be used. If this is your choice, contact http:/www.militaryfuneralhonors.osd.mil
Not Sure If A Deceased Family Member Is An Eligible Vet?
Veterans are entitled to a proper, respectful burial. If you are unsure if a deceased adult is a veteran, you can verify their status by calling the VA toll-free benefits number: 1-800-827-1000, or contact your local VA regional
Peter S. Gaytan is the author of For Service to Your Country, The Insider’s Guide to Veterans’ Benefits (Citadel, 2008), available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers. He has served as an advocate in securing and protecting the earned benefits of America’s veterans for more than a decade. Gaytan is the Executive Director of the American Legion, the largest veterans service organization in America.
*Material released with permission of the authors.
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