United States veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors are entitled to many burial benefits through the US Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA). These benefits are periodically updated, so be sure to check the VA for the latest information. In this section, we cover updated benefits (as of Sept., 2023), links to connect directly to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, a short overview of eligibility, other helpful information, and cautions about avoiding scams.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) expanded their burial benefits in September, 2023:
WASHINGTON — Today [Sept. 22, 2023], VA announced that Veterans, and their families, caregivers, and survivors now have access to expanded burial benefits to help with end-of-life expenses related to a Veteran’s gravesite, burial, funeral and transportation of remains to their final resting place. Burial benefits are available to individuals who pay for a Veteran’s burial and funeral costs that are not reimbursed by any other organization. The updated burial benefits are:
Expanded reimbursement of transportation expenses, to include costs for transporting remains, to state or Tribal Veterans’ cemeteries in addition to previously eligible national cemeteries.
Instituted a more generous single payment rate for non-service-connected burial benefits.
Extended the VA plot or interment allowance to Tribal organizations.
“Last fiscal year, VA delivered more than 84,000 burial benefits to families of Veterans,” said VA Under Secretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs. “Expanding burial benefits means we are able to ensure Veterans are honored in their final resting place, and assist their family, caregivers, and survivors during the difficult time of their loved one’s passing.”
VA provides burial benefits for all legal burial types, including cremation, burial at sea, and donation of remains to a medical school. Eligible individuals include a surviving spouse or legal partner, surviving child, parent or executor of the Veteran’s estate. Additionally, VA may pay burial benefits to a funeral home or third party who handled burial arrangements for a Veteran whose remains are unclaimed.
Veterans are encouraged to plan with end-of-life benefits provided by VA. These benefits include VA life insurance, care preferences, survivor benefits, and burial benefits that can be applied for in advance of a Veteran’s passing. Visit www.va.gov/plan-ahead to learn more.
There is no time limit to file for a service-connected burial, plot or interment allowance, or the transportation benefit. However, claims for non-service-connected burial benefits must be filed within two years of the Veteran’s burial or cremation. A non-service-connected burial benefit is one where the cause of death was not related to military service.
Learn more about burial benefits and additional information regarding flags, headstones, and markers.
You can read more about Veterans’ Funeral and Burial Benefits directly at the US Department of Veterans Affairs: - Frequently Asked Questions page is a good place to start. - The full US Department of Veterans Affairs pamphlet, “Burial Benefits for Veterans and Their Families”. WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS? (consult VA for full list) Veterans All veterans are entitled to burial in one of the 151 national veterans cemeteries, a headstone or marker, and a burial flag. There will be no charge for the gravesite, opening and closing the grave, a vault or liner, and setting the marker. For burial in a private cemetery, veterans will only receive a free government-issued headstone or marker and a flag. Usually a family is responsible for all other expenses, such as body preparation, casket or urn, and transportation. Ask your local veterans’ office if there are any state and county death benefits for veterans. Spouse and Dependents The spouse and minor dependents of any eligible veteran are entitled to burial and a marker in a national cemetery, even if they predecease the veteran or the veteran is buried elsewhere. Adult children of veterans are entitled to burial benefits only if unmarried, disabled and dependent. A spouse who remarries a non-veteran may claim burial rights from the prior marriage. There are no benefits for spouses or dependents buried at a private cemetery. Others Who May be Eligible There are a number of others eligible for veterans’ burial benefits if the person has provided military-related service. The list has recently been expanded, and is quite long. It includes civilians who were involved with military efforts during wartime. Some members of the National Guard and Reserves and some Public Health Service personnel are also eligible. You should inquire if you believe you might be entitled to such benefits. Persons Not Eligible Persons who are not eligible for burial benefits include veterans with a dishonorable discharge; divorced spouses; most adult children; parents, siblings, and other relatives, even if they are dependents; and anyone convicted of subversive activities or capital crimes. Documentation Needed to Claim Benefits
Veteran: Discharge papers (DD214 or equivalent) and death certificate. Spouse: Discharge papers (DD214) and marriage license. OTHER HELPFUL INFORMATION
- You cannot reserve space in a national cemetery ahead of time; arrangements are made only at the time of death.
- National cemeteries provide space for both body burial and cremated remains.
- Eligible survivors are now paid any burial allowance automatically when the VA receives notification of the veteran’s death. A family may apply directly to the VA for additional benefits. Although it may be convenient to let the funeral home do so, you may wish to ask if they charge for submitting claims.
- Burials in a national cemetery are not usually conducted on weekends.
- Check with the cemetery regarding gravesite adornments other than natural cut flowers.
- A burial flag is provided at no charge for the burial of any veteran not dishonorably discharged. You can apply through the VA and pick up the flag at a US Post Office. Family members may wish to purchase a flag case for later display, available through private sources.
- Veterans are entitled to military funeral honors, and families can request the ceremony through the funeral home. The ceremony is conducted by two or more uniformed military persons and includes folding and presenting a flag and the playing of Taps.
- Next of kin, other relatives or friends may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate, an engraved paper certificate honoring the veteran and signed by the President. More than one may be requested.
- When the body of a veteran without next of kin is unclaimed from a VA facility and the estate is without sufficient assets, the VA will assume responsibility for burial.
- You can use the National Cemetery Administration’s “Nationwide Gravesite Locator” to locate the grave of a veteran or family member at a national or state-run veterans cemetery. You will need to provide the full name and dates of birth and death.
- State-run veterans cemeteries offer similar benefits, with some restrictions. See www.cem.va.gov/
CAUTION! The VA has gotten complaints from vets who were approached by commercial funeral outfits offering “free” cemetery lots or other so-called “veterans’ benefits.” They DO NOT represent the US government! Be sure to ask:
- Must you also purchase another lot?
- Where is it located?
- How much will it cost?
- Is “perpetual care” additional?
- What are the costs for opening and closing each grave?
- Must certain memorials be purchased through the cemetery?
- What are the costs for setting memorials?
- Is a vault required? Even for cremated remains? May it be purchased elsewhere?
- Are there marker or planting restrictions?
- What are the “administrative” charges?
- Who owns the cemetery?
- Are there nearby municipal or religious cemeteries that charge less for the same services?
- For more information, call the VA office at 800-698-2411, or visit www.va.gov.