The Ultimate Guide To Veterans Burial Benefits (2019 Edition)
“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” – Winston Churchill
If you are a Veteran or have a Veteran in your family, it’s important that you understand Veterans burial benefits. This post will provide an in-depth guide into veterans’ burial benefits and the steps the decedent’s spouse or family member can take in order to receive them.
What Are Veteran Burial Benefits?
The VA has benefits designed to aid Veterans and their family regarding burial allowances to assist in covering burial, funeral, and transportation costs. Veterans may be buried or interred in a national (government) or private cemetery. Transportation costs will also include the transporting of the Veteran’s remains for burial in a national cemetery.
According to the VA.org site, “Servicemembers, Veterans, and family members may qualify for burial in a VA national cemetery and for other burial honors, such as a headstone or marker, medallion, burial flag, and Presidential Memorial Certificate. Some family members may also qualify for money to pay for burial costs.”
What Other Burial Benefits Are Included?
- The opening and closing of the grave
- A burial liner provided by the government
- Perpetual (ongoing) care of the gravesite
Honors and Memorial Items That May Be Included Are:
- A burial flag for draping over the casket (or coffin) or to place with the urn
- A Presidential Memorial Certificate signed by the current President of the United States
- Headstone, marker, niche cover, or medallion to identify a gravesite located outside a VA national cemetery
All of these benefits are well worth checking into, because the costs of even a basic, no-frills funeral and burial can easily become a financial burden on a family.
Who is eligible for Veteran Benefits?
If you are paying for the burial and funeral costs of a Veteran and your relationship with the Veteran is listed below, you may be eligible to receive burial allowances.
Those eligible to receive Veteran’s burial benefits (burial allowances) include:
- The Veteran’s surviving spouse (Note: same-sex marriages are recognized)
- A surviving child of the Veteran
- A parent of the Veteran
- The executor or administrator of the Veteran’s estate (someone who officially represents the Veteran)
Also, in order to be eligible for this benefit, the Veteran:
- Must have received an honorable discharge, or
- Died while on active duty, or
- Died as a result of a service-connected disability (a disability related to service), or
- Had been getting a VA pension or compensation when they died, or
- Had chosen to get military retired pay instead of compensation, or
- Died while getting VA care, either at a VA facility or at a facility contracted by VA, or
- Died while traveling to approved VA care, or
- Died with a reopened claim for VA compensation or a pension that would have qualified them to get benefits, or
- Died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.
Spouses of eligible Veterans may also receive burial benefits in a national cemetery (even if the Veteran is not buried in one). Plus, “the surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who had a subsequent remarriage to a non-veteran and whose death occurred on or after January 1, 2000, is eligible for burial in a national cemetery, based on his or her marriage to the eligible veteran.”
The minor children of an eligible Veteran may be buried in a national cemetery, a minor child is unmarried and under the age of 21 or unmarried and under the age of 23 “and pursuing a full-time course of instruction at an approved educational institution.” An unmarried adult child of an eligible Veteran may receive the same benefits as a minor child if that unmarried adult child is “permanently physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support before reaching 21 years of age, or before reaching 23 years of age if pursuing a full-time course of instruction at an approved educational institution. Proper supporting documentation must be provided.”
Top 5 Facts You Need to Know
1. You Must Initiate the Process
When a Veteran in your family dies, you must initiate the process to receive Veterans Burial Benefits. Unless you apply, you won’t receive the benefits. The US Department of Veterans Affairs site is the best place to go to learn more and find the forms you will need to fill out.
2. Va Benefits Don’t Cover All Funeral Costs
You will be responsible for certain costs – including casket, coffin, or urn. The benefits do not cover cremation costs, embalming, etc. When you contact the VA, make sure you ask which costs are covered and which ones are not.
Suggested Read: Cremation vs Burial: What Are The Average Costs? (2019 Edition)
3. A Veteran Who Received a Dishonorable Discharge Is Not Eligible
But a Veteran who was dishonorably discharged may apply for a Discharge Upgrade. If a Veteran’s discharge is upgrade, he or she will be eligible for the VA burial benefits. Strong reasons why a dishonorable discharge could be upgraded include mental health conditions (such as PTSD), traumatic brain injury, sexual assault during service, or sexual orientation.
4. A Veteran Can Plan Ahead for His or Her Burial in a VA National Cemetery
Pre-planning your burial will certainly help family members during an already-difficult time. Veterans will need to apply for a pre-need eligibility determination.
5. Immediate Family May Be Eligible for Benefits
An eligible Veteran’s spouse and minor children (and special circumstance adult children) are eligible for interment in a national cemetery. More information can be found on the Veterans Burial Benefits page of the National Veterans Foundation website.
What to Know About Military Funeral Etiquette
First, it’s good to know what to expect at a military funeral, as they are usually more formal and traditional than the average civilian’s funeral.
More like This: How To Plan A Funeral: Checklist & Worklist Included
Above all, memorial services at national cemeteries are held with dignity and respect. The deceased Veteran or Servicemember is honored for his or her service and sacrifice for the country.
If a service is held in the cemetery, it will take place at a committal shelter rather than at the graveside. Any military honors and/or readings will be shared. The entire service will be brief. There will also be an attending cemetery official who will assist and guide family and guests as needed.
Military Honors That May Be Performed Include:
- The playing of “Taps”
- A rifle detail for a synchronized 21-gun salute (this is usually performed by seven uniformed Servicemembers who fire their guns together three times)
- A color guard
- Uniformed Servicemembers who will present the burial flag to a family member
Other Things to Note About Military Funerals and Burials:
- You will not go to the grave location. It is military practice to wait until the family and friends have left the cemetery before the casket is moved to the gravesite. The casket will be lowered into the ground and the grave filled and tidied up before family may come back at the end of the day to visit the site.
- If you like, you may bring fresh flowers and place them on top of the casket before you leave the committal shelter. They will be lowered into the grave with the casket.
- If a headstone, grave marker, and/or a medallion have been requested, they will be set in place within 60 days.
- Because national cemeteries are made of straight lines and often may look the same, it may be difficult for you to locate your loved one’s grave location. There will be assistance available, such as a cemetery guide or a kiosk with grave locations and directions on how to get there.
- Another thing you will have already noticed is that military cemeteries are kept immaculate. Perpetual care is one of the benefits a fallen Veteran or Servicemember receives, which means the cemetery grounds will be kept beautiful year-round.
Concerned about what to wear to a funeral during our changing times? We’ve got you covered with these tips.
How to Apply for Military Benefits
Applying for military benefits may seem overwhelming, but there are resources to help you through this time. The VA Survivors and Burial Benefits Kits
When applying for burial-related benefits, you will need to fill out a number of basic forms.
- To apply for pre-need eligibility in a National Cemetery
VA Form 40-10007
- To apply for burial benefits
VA Form 21P-530
- To apply for a Headstone/Marker
VA Form 40-1330
- To apply for a Government Medallion
VA Form 40-1330M
- To apply for a Burial Flag
VA Form 27-2008
- To apply for DIC benefits for the Veteran’s surviving spouse/child(ren)
VA Form 21-534EZ
- To apply for DIC benefits for the Veteran’s surviving parent(s)
VA Form 21P-535
- To apply for DIC benefits for the Veteran’s surviving spouse/child(ren) as a result of combat-related death
VA Form 21P-534a
- To apply for a: Survivors Pension (*with aid and attendance or housebound benefits)
VA Form 21P-534EZ
You can find current versions of the forms online at www.va.gov/vaforms.
List of Veteran Burial Benefits Resources
- National Cemetery Scheduling Office:
- Headstones and Markers:
- VA Benefits Hotline:
- Call MyVA311 for Help:
- Veterans Crisis Line
800-273-8255 and press 1
- If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 711.
Understanding Veterans burial benefits and navigating the information online may seem to be a lot to take in – especially if you’re reading it over after a Veteran in your life has recently died. But you’ve got a great start. You’ve read this article to help you know what is involved, and you’ve been given links to locations online where you can find what you need to put the wheels in motion.