Veterans discharged from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable and service members who die while on active duty, as well as spouses and dependent children of veterans and active duty service members, may be eligible for VA burial and memorial benefits. The veteran does not have to pre-decease a spouse or dependent child for them to be eligible.
With certain exceptions, active duty service beginning after Sept. 7, 1980, as an enlisted person, and after Oct. 16, 1981, as an officer, must be for a minimum of 24 consecutive months or the full period of active duty (as in the case of reservists or National Guard members called to active duty for a limited duration). Eligibility is not established by active duty for training in the reserves or National Guard.
Reservists and National Guard members, as well as their spouses and dependent children, are eligible if they were entitled to retired pay at the time of death, or would have been if over age 60.
VA national cemetery directors verify eligibility for burial in their cemeteries. A copy of the veteran’s discharge document that specifies the period(s) of active duty and character of discharge, along with the deceased’s death certificate and proof of relationship to the veteran (for eligible family members) are all that are usually needed to determine eligibility.
Under Section 2411 of Title 38 of the United States Code, certain
otherwise eligible individuals found to have committed federal or
state capital crimes are barred from burial or memorialization in a VA national cemetery, and from receipt of government-furnished headstones, markers, burial flags, and Presidential Memorial Certificates.
Burial in VA National Cemeteries
Burial in a VA national cemetery is available for eligible veterans, their spouses and dependents at no cost to the family and includes the gravesite, grave-liner, opening and closing of the grave, a headstone or marker, and perpetual care as part of a national shrine. For veterans, benefits also include a burial flag (with case for active duty) and military funeral honors. Family members and other loved ones of deceased veterans may request Presidential Memorial Certificates.
VA operates 125 national cemeteries, of which 65 are open for new casketed interments and 21 are open to accept only cremated remains. Burial options are limited to those available at a specific cemetery but may include in-ground casket, or interment of cremated remains in a columbarium, in ground or in a scatter garden. Contact the nearest national cemetery to determine if it is open for new burials and which options are available.
Six new national cemeteries are scheduled to open in 2008 or 2009 near the cities of Bakersfield, Calif.; Birmingham, Ala.; Greenville, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Sarasota, Fla.
The funeral director or the next of kin makes interment arrangements by contacting the national cemetery in which burial is desired. VA normally does not conduct burials on weekends. Gravesites cannot be reserved; however, VA will honor reservations made under previous programs.
Surviving spouses of veterans who died on or after Jan.1, 2000, do not lose eligibility for burial in a national cemetery if they remarry. Burial of dependent children is limited to unmarried children under 21 years of age, or under 23 years of age if a full-time student at an approved educational institution. Unmarried adult children who become physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support before age 21, or age 23 if a full-time student, also are eligible for burial.
Headstones and Markers
Veterans, active duty service members, retired Reservists, and National Guard service members are eligible for an inscribed headstone or marker for their grave at any cemetery -- national, state veterans, or private. VA will deliver a headstone or marker at no cost, anywhere in the world. For certain veterans whose deaths occurred on or after Nov. 1, 1990, VA may provide a government headstone or marker even if the grave is already marked with a private one. Spouses and dependent children are eligible for a government headstone or marker only if they are buried in a national or state veterans cemetery.
Flat markers are available in bronze, granite or marble. Upright headstones come in granite or marble. In national cemeteries, the style chosen must be consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Niche markers are available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.
Headstones and markers previously provided by the government may be replaced at the government’s expense if badly deteriorated, illegible, vandalized or stolen. To check the status of an application for a headstone or marker for a national or state veterans cemetery, call the cemetery. To check the status of one being placed in a private cemetery, call 1-800-697-6947.
Inscription: Headstones and markers must be inscribed with the name of the deceased, branch of service, and year of birth and death. They also may be inscribed with other markings, including an authorized emblem of belief and, space permitting, additional text including military rank; war service such as “World War II;” complete dates of birth and death; military awards; military organizations; civilian or veteran affiliations; and words of endearment.
Private Cemeteries: To apply for a headstone or marker for a private cemetery, mail a completed VA Form 40-1330 (available at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/40-1330.pdf), Application for Standard Government Headstone or Marker, and a copy of the veteran’s military discharge document to Memorial Programs Service (41A1), Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Rd., Quantico, VA 22134-3903. The application and supporting documents may also be faxed toll free at 1-800-455-7143.
Before ordering, check with the cemetery to ensure that the additional headstone or marker will be accepted. Any placement fee will not be reimbursed by VA.
“In Memory Of” Markers: VA provides memorial headstones and markers, bearing the inscription “In Memory Of” as the first line, to memorialize those whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science or cremated and scattered. Eligibility is the same for regular headstones and markers. There is no fee when the “In Memory Of” marker is placed in a national cemetery. Any fees associated with placement in another cemetery will not be reimbursed by VA.
Presidential Memorial Certificates
Certificates are issued upon request to recognize the military service of honorably discharged deceased veterans. Next of kin, relatives and friends may apply for a certificate by mailing a completed VA Form 40-0247 (available at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-0247.pdf), Presidential Memorial Certificate Request Form, and a copy of the veteran’s military discharge document to Presidential Memorial Certificates (41A1C), Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Rd., Quantico, VA 22134-3903. The request form and supporting documents may also be faxed toll free at 1-800-455-7143.
VA will furnish a U.S. burial flag for memorialization of:
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veteran’s death is service-connected. In such cases, the person who bore the veteran’s burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA.
In some cases, VA will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-connected veteran to the nearest national cemetery with available gravesites. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims in service-connected death cases.
Burial Allowance: VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral allowance for veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled if they weren’t receiving military retirement pay. Eligibility also may be established when death occurs in a VA facility, a VA-contracted nursing home or a state veterans nursing home. In non service-connected death cases, claims must be filed within two years after burial or cremation.
Plot Allowance: VA will pay a $300 plot allowance when a veteran is buried in a cemetery not under U.S. government jurisdiction if: the veteran was discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; the veteran was receiving compensation or pension or would have been if the veteran was not receiving military retired pay; or the veteran died in a VA facility.
The $300 plot allowance may be paid to the state for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials if the veteran is buried without charge. Burial expenses paid by the deceased’s employer or a state agency will notbe reimbursed.
Military Funeral Honors
Upon request, DOD will provide military funeral honors consisting of folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “Taps.” A funeral honors detail consists of two or more uniformed members of the armed forces, with at least one member from the deceased’s branch of service.
Family members should inform their funeral directors if they want military funeral honors. DOD maintains a toll-free number (1-877-MILHONR) for use by funeral directors only to request honors. VA can help arrange honors for burials at VA national cemeteries. Veterans’ service organizations or volunteer groups may help provide honors. For more information, visit http://www.militaryfuneralhonors.osd.mil/.
Veterans Cemeteries Administered by Other Agencies
Arlington National Cemetery: Administered by the Department of the Army. Eligibility is more restrictive than at VA national cemeteries. For information, call (703) 607-8000, write Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211, or visit http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/.
Department of the Interior: Administers two active national cemeteries – Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Tennessee. Eligibility is similar to VA national cemeteries.
State Veterans Cemeteries: Sixty-nine state veterans cemeteries offer burial options for veterans and their families. These cemeteries have similar eligibility requirements but usually require some residence. Some services, particularly for family members, may require a fee. Contact the state cemetery or state veterans affairs office for information. To locate a state veterans cemetery, visit http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/scg/lsvc.asp.