US Military Veteran Burial Benefits
Posted on: October 1, 2021
All Veterans earned the right to burial benefits available through the US Veterans Administration. A Veteran does not need fight in a combat action to have these rights. Why were these rights created, what are they, and how can a Veteran use these rights?
The Civil War changed a lot of things not only between the North and South. For US military Veterans, the war changed the treatment of Veterans upon their passing. Prior to the 1862, combat Veterans were inauspiciously buried where they fell. President Abraham Lincoln pushed for a National Cemetery System in which any Veteran not receiving a bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge can be buried in one of the National Cemeteries and receive other burial benefits, as well.
While the National Cemetery System has 155 locations across 42 states and Puerto Rico, another 34 soldier’s sites and monument sites are available. Several states have established their own Veteran Cemeteries with eligibility requirements similar to the VA and may include residency requirements. Veterans may also be interred at territorial and tribal cemeteries.
Burial Benefits for More Than Veterans
Veterans who didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge may be eligible for burial benefits. These benefits include interment of a spouse, minor child, and possibly an unmarried adult dependent child. Spouses and dependents are ineligible for benefits at nonmilitary burial grounds.
Reserving Your Burial Plot
Prior to 2016, the VA required certain criteria being met before a reservation for a burial plot would be accepted. Since 2016, the VA started accepting a pre-need determination of eligibility to become preapproved for burial at a VA National Cemetery.
Follow these four steps to gain your preapproval:
- Gather supporting documentation. In most cases, you’ll need your DD-214. If you’re a surviving spouse or descendant, contact the National Personnel Records Center or Veterans Benefit Administration.
- Determine eligibility.
- Choose a VA National Cemetery (Note: State Veteran Cemeteries should be contacted before filing a pre-need application. Some state cemeteries have other specific requirements. Additionally, Arlington National Cemetery and the US Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home Cemetery should be contacted at 877-907-8585.)
- Fill out an application for each person requesting a pre-need determination.
Advanced Planning Not Required
If a Veteran dies unexpectedly without a pre-need approval, families should contact the National Cemetery Administration at 800-535-1117. If the Veteran’s discharge documents are unavailable, the National Cemetery Administration will contact the National Personnel Records Center or the Veterans Benefit Administration to locate the Veteran’s documentation. If the Veteran didn’t request to be buried in a military cemetery, eligibility can still be established to receive a marker at a private cemetery. If the Veteran’s discharge documents are already in hand, the funeral director or family member can often reserve an interment date at a nearby national cemetery on the day he or she calls.
Burial Expense Reimbursement
Depending on the veteran’s service history and where a veteran is buried, the VA may pay a burial allowance or payment of up to $2,000 to help cover certain burial-related expenses. Otherwise, benefits may include a grave site in any of the national cemeteries where space is available, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag and a Presidential Memorial Certificate at no cost to the family.
Memorial Web Page
Family members can visit the unique page of any veteran who’s buried in a national cemetery and post photos, documents or memories in what is called the Veterans Legacy Memorial. As of October 1, 2021, the National Cemetery Administration manages more than 150 national cemeteries and extends digital memorialization via a dedicated web page of more than 3.7 million Veterans interred in those cemeteries. Plans exist to include Veterans interred at state, territorial, and tribal cemeteries.
Veteran Headstones, Markers, and Medallions
Veterans and eligible spouses or other family members may apply for a headstone, marker, and/or medallion for their gravesite. Those buried in a national cemetery, state, or tribal Veterans cemetery, military post cemetery, or military base cemetery may be eligible for a headstone or marker. Spouses and other family members may be eligible even if they die before the Veteran. Spouses and family members interred in private cemeteries are not eligible for memorial items. In cases of both spouses being Veterans, two plots side-by-side are provided with two headstones, if requested. Otherwise, the Veteran and non-Veteran spouse or family member are interred in the same gravesite with a single headstone.
Veterans receiving other than bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge and service members who died while on active duty may be eligible for a medallion. Veterans and service members may be eligible for the bronze medallion. Recipients of the Medal of Honor may also be eligible for the Medal of Honor medallion.