Veterans discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and service members who die while on active duty may be eligible for the following burial benefits: (1) burial in a national cemetery; (2) government-furnished headstone or marker; (3) Presidential Memorial Certificate; (4) burial flag; and in some cases, (5) reimbursement of a portion of burial expenses. With certain exceptions, 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 for which the person was called to active duty. Reservists and National Guard members are eligible if they were entitled to retired pay at the time of death, or would have been entitled had they not been under the age of 60.
Certain Filipino veterans of World War II, to include those who served in the Philippine Commonwealth Army (USAFFE) or recognized guerilla forces and New Philippine Scouts, may be eligible if the veteran, at the time of death, was a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States.
Persons convicted of a federal or state capital crime, and sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole, are barred from receiving burial benefits. For additional information on burial benefits, call the nearest national cemetery or 1-800-827-1000, or visit: http://www.cem.va.gov/.
Burial in VA National Cemeteries
VA provides veterans and dependents several gravesite options for burial, though choices are limited to those available at a specific cemetery. These may include a full casket burial, or columbarium or in-ground niche for cremated remains. A limited number of national cemeteries also provide a scatter garden for cremated remains.
The funeral director or the next of kin makes interment arrangements for an eligible veteran or dependent at the time of need by contacting the national cemetery in which burial is desired. VA normally does not conduct burials on weekends. However, weekend callers will be directed to a national cemetery that can schedule burials for the following week. Gravesites in national cemeteries cannot be reserved, however VA will honor reservations made under previous programs.
Spouses and dependent children of eligible veterans and service members also may be buried in a national cemetery. If the surviving spouse of an eligible veteran remarries, and that marriage is terminated by death or dissolved by annulment or divorce, the surviving spouse is eligible for burial in a national cemetery. The surviving spouse need not be unmarried at the time of death to retain eligibility, if the date of death is on or after Jan.1, 2000. Burial of dependent children is limited to unmarried children under 21 years of age, or under 23 years of age if pursuing a full-time course of instruction at an approved educational institution. Unmarried adult children who became physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support before reaching the age of 21, or 23 if a full-time student, also are eligible for burial.
Headstones and Markers
Flat bronze, granite or marble markers and upright granite or marble headstones are available. 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. Government-furnished headstones and markers must be inscribed with the name of the deceased, branch of service, and the 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 grade, rate or 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. When burial or memorialization is in a national, state or military veterans cemetery, the headstone or marker must be ordered through cemetery officials. To apply or obtain specific information on available styles, contact the cemetery where the headstone or marker is to be placed.
When burial occurs in a private cemetery, an application for a government furnished headstone or marker must be made to the VA. The government will ship the headstone or marker free of charge, but will not pay for its placement. Headstones and markers previously provided by the government may be replaced at government expense if badly deteriorated, illegible, vandalized or stolen. Eligible veterans and servicemembers buried in private cemeteries, whose deaths occurred on or after Sept. 11, 2001, may receive a government-furnished headstone or marker regardless of whether the grave is already marked with a non-government memorial.
To apply, mail a completed VA Form 40-1330, Application for Standard Government Headstone or Marker for Installation in a Private or State Veterans Cemetery, along with a copy of the veteran's military service discharge document to Memorial Programs Service (402E), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20420-0001. Or fax documents to 1-800-455-7143. Do not send original discharge documents because they will not be returned. For information and application instructions, visit: http://www.cem.va.gov.
VA also provides memorial headstones and markers, bearing the inscription "In Memory of as their first line, to memorialize eligible veterans and servicemembers whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science or cremated and scattered. Eligible dependents may be memorialized only in national or state veterans cemeteries. To be memorialized, dependents do not need to outlive the veteran from whom their eligibility is based. Memorial headstones or markers must be placed in national, state veterans, local or private cemeteries. VA supplies and ships memorial headstones and markers free of charge, but does not pay for their plots or placement. To check the status of an application for headstone or marker, call 1-800-697-6947.
Presidential Memorial Certificates
Certificates signed by the president are issued upon request to recognize the military service of honorably discharged deceased veterans. Next of kin, other relatives and friends may request them in person at any VA regional office or by mail: Presidential Memorial Certificates, Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Rd., Quantico, VA 22143-3909. There is no pre-printed form to complete or time limit for requesting a certificate(s), but requests should include a copy, not the original, of the deceased veteran's discharge document and clearly indicate to what address the certificate(s) should be sent. Additional information and a sample certificate can be found on the Internet: http://www.cem.va.gov/pmc.htm.
VA will furnish a United States burial flag for memorialization of:
- Veterans who served during wartime, or served after Jan. 31, 1955.
- Veterans who were entitled to retired pay for service in the reserves, or would have been entitled to such pay but not for being under 60 years of age.
- Members or former members of the Selected Reserve who served at least one enlistment or, in the case of an officer, the period of initial obligation, or were discharged for disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, or died while a member of the Selected Reserve.
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veteran's death is service-connected. In some instances, VA also will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-disabled veteran to the national cemetery nearest the home of the deceased that has available gravesites. In such cases, the person who bore the veteran's burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims in service-connected death cases.
VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance for veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled to compensation but for receipt of military retirement pay. Eligibility also may be established when death occurs in a VA facility, a nursing home under VA contract or a state veterans nursing home. Additional costs of transportation of the remains may be paid. In nonservice-connected death cases, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation.
VA will pay a $300 plot allowance when a veteran is not buried in a cemetery that is under U.S. government jurisdiction under the following circumstances: the veteran was discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; the veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension or would have been except for receiving military retired pay; or the veteran died in a VA facility.
The $300 plot allowance may be paid to the state if a veteran is buried without charge for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials. Burial expenses paid by the deceased's employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed.
Military Funeral Honors
Upon request, the Department of Defense will provide military funeral honors for the burial of military members and eligible veterans.
A basic military funeral honors ceremony consists of the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of Taps by a bugler, if available, or by electronic recording. A funeral honors detail to perform this ceremony consists of two or more uniformed members of the armed forces, with at least one member from the service in which the deceased veteran served.
The Department of Defense maintains a toll-free telephone line (1-877-Mll-HONR) for use by funeral directors only to request honors. Family members should inform their funeral directors if they desire military funeral honors for a veteran. VA national cemetery staff can help arrange for honors during burials at VA national cemeteries. Veterans service organizations or volunteer groups may help provide honors. For more information, visit the military funeral honors Web page: http://www.militaryfuneralhonors.osd.mil.
Veterans' Cemeteries Administered by Other Agencies
Arlington National Cemetery
The Department of the Army administers Arlington National Cemetery. Eligibility for burial is more restrictive than at VA national cemeteries. Information may be found on the internet http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/ or by writing to Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211, or calling 703-607-8585.
Department of the Interior
The Department of the Interior administers two active national cemeteries: Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Tennessee. Eligibility for burial is similar to VA cemetery eligibility.
State Veterans Cemeteries
Individual states operate cemeteries for veterans. Eligibility requirements may differ from those for national cemeteries. Contact the state cemetery or state veterans affairs office for additional information. To locate a state veterans cemetery, visit the internet: http://www.cem.va.gov/lsvc.htm.