We are indebted to the brave men and women who serve our country. For those seniors who have served in the armed forces, there are burial and funeral benefits available. Although it is never fun to think about these types of decisions and costs, understanding the available benefits can put your or your senior loved one’s mind at ease, and can help make a difficult time less stressful.
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 under conditions other than dishonorable are eligible. To verify your senior loved one’s discharge, you’ll need a copy of his or her DD Form 214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” which you can request online.
Following is a rundown of some of the benefits available to veterans who die a nonservice-related death:
National Cemetery Benefits
Pending eligibility, if your senior loved one would like to be buried in one of the 136 national or 111 grant-funded state and tribal VA cemeteries (you can find a full list of the cemeteries here), the VA provides a host of benefits, at no cost to the family. These benefits include:
- 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 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.
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, included in VA benefits. Those costs are the responsibility of the veteran’s family, but some veteran’s survivors are eligible for burial allowances, which are explained below.
If you’re interested in this option, the VA offers a preneed burial eligibility determination program (details are available here, or you can call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117).
Private Cemetery Benefits
If your senior loved one prefers to be buried in a private cemetery, available benefits 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 again the responsibility of the family (some burial allowances may be available), and there are no benefits offered to spouses and dependents that are buried in private cemeteries.
Military Funeral Honors
Another popular benefit available to all 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 your preferences, certain forms may need to be completed (and may sometimes be completed in advance).
For a complete rundown of burial and memorial benefits, eligibility details and required forms, call 800-827-1000 or visit the VA National Cemetery Administration website.
In addition to the burial benefits, some veteran’s survivors may also qualify for a $300 burial allowance (or $780 if hospitalized by VA at time of death) and $780 for a plot, to those who choose to be buried in a private cemetery.
To apply for burial allowances, you’ll need to fill out VA Form 21P-530 “Application for Burial Benefits.” You need to attach a copy of your dad’s discharge document (DD 214 or equivalent), death certificate, funeral and burial bills. They should show that you have paid them in full. The form is available for download here.