How to Secure Veterans’ Funeral and Burial Benefits
Does the VA provide any special burial benefits to veterans? My dad, who has late-stage Parkinson’s disease, served during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Most U.S. veterans are eligible for burial and memorial benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration. Veterans who were discharged are eligible unless the discharge was under dishonorable conditions. To verify your dad’s discharge, you will need a copy of his DD Form 214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” which you can request online at Archives.gov/veterans. Here is a rundown of some of the different benefits that are available to veterans who pass away from a nonservice-related cause.
National Cemetery Benefits
If your dad is eligible, and would like to be laid to rest in one of the 136 national or 111 grant-funded state and tribal VA cemeteries (see www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/listcem.asp for a list), the VA provides a host of benefits at no cost to the family, including: a gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual gravesite care, a government headstone or marker, a United States burial flag that can be used to drape over the casket or accompany the urn (after the funeral service, the flag is given to the next-of-kin as a keepsake) and a presidential memorial certificate. National cemetery burial benefits are also available to spouses and dependents of veterans. Note that, if your dad is cremated, his remains will be buried or inurned in the same manner as casketed remains. Funeral or cremation arrangements and costs are not, however, taken care of by the VA. They are the responsibility of the veteran’s family. Some veterans’ survivors are eligible for burial allowances, which are explained below. If you are interested in this option, the VA offers a pre-need burial eligibility determination program at www.cem.va.gov/pre-need. You can also call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.
Private Cemetery Benefits
If your dad wants to be laid to rest in a private cemetery, the benefits available include a free government headstone or marker, or a medallion that can be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker, a burial flag and a presidential memorial certificate. Funeral or cremation arrangements and costs are the responsibility of the family (some burial allowances may be available). Benefits are not available for spouses and dependents buried in private cemeteries.
Military Funeral Honors
Another popular benefit available to eligible veterans buried in either a national or private cemetery is a military funeral honors ceremony. This includes an honor guard detail of at least two uniformed military persons, folding and presenting the U.S. burial flag to the veteran’s survivors and the playing of Taps by a bugler or an electronic recording. The funeral provider you choose will be able to assist you with all VA burial requests. Depending on what is desired, certain forms may need to be completed. For a complete rundown of burial and memorial benefits, eligibility details and required forms, visit www.cem.va.gov or call 800-827-1000.
In addition to the burial benefits, some veterans’ survivors may also qualify for a $300 burial allowance (or $780 if hospitalized by the VA at the time of death). For those who choose to be laid to rest in a private cemetery, a $780 allowance may be available to the veterans’ survivors. To find out if your dad is eligible, see Benefits.va.gov/benefits/factsheets/burials/burial.pdf. When the time comes to apply for burial allowances, you will need to fill out VA Form 21P-530 “Application for Burial Benefits.” You will need to attach a copy of your dad’s discharge document (DD 214 or equivalent), death certificate, funeral and burial bills. You may download this form at VA.gov/vaforms.