As a Veteran you are entitled to several different burial benefits upon death. These burial benefits can include a grave site in one of the 131 national cemetery, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care of your grave, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a presidential memorial certificate. Some Veterans may also be eligible for burial allowances.
Grave Site: in a National or State Veterans Cemetery
Opening and Closing of the Grave or Niche: If the veteran decides to be buried in a national cemetery, then the opening and the closing of their grave is paid for by the government.
Perpetual Care of the Grave: Veterans who are buried in a national cemetery get perpetual care of their grave. This means that grave maintenance and upkeep are covered by the government.
Government Headstone or Marker: Upon request and at no charge to the applicant, a Government headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible Veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death. Flat markers in granite, marble, and bronze and upright headstones in granite and marble are available. Bronze niche markers are also available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.
Burial Flag: A United States flag is provided, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces. It is furnished to honor the memory of a Veteran’s military service to his or her country. The flag is given to the next-of-kin, as a keepsake, after its use during the funeral service. When there is no next-of-kin, VA will furnish the flag to a friend making request for it.
Presidential Memorial Certificate: an engraved paper certificate, signed by the current President, to honor the memory of honorably discharged deceased Veterans.
Burial Allowances: partial reimbursements of an eligible Veteran’s burial and funeral costs. When the cause of death is not service related, the reimbursements are generally described as two payments: (1) a burial and funeral expense allowance, and (2) a plot or interment allowance. More on burial allowances can be found below.
In order to obtain all these benefits there are some items and information you will need to have on hand.
The documents you will need include:
- a DD 214 form (Veteran discharge papers)
- a report of casualty
The other information you will need about the Veteran is:
- the Veteran’s full name
- their military rank & their branch of service
- the dates they entered into combat and were discharged from combat
- their serial number, social security number, or their VA claim number
- date and place of birth
- and their date of death
If you don’t have the Veteran’s original discharge papers then you can get a copy from the National Personnel Records Center.
Burial in a national cemetery is available to anyone who served for the United States and completed the minimum amount of service time required. If you choose to be buried in a private cemetery, you will still be eligible to receive a government headstone, a burial flag, and a presidential memorial certificate The family may also be eligible for burial allowances which are partial reimbursements given to eligible Veteran’s families to help pay for their funeral.
To become eligible for burial allowances the following criteria must be fulfilled:
- you must have paid for a Veteran’s funeral
- a government agency has not reimbursed for the Veteran’s funeral
- the Veteran was discharged honorably
The Veteran must also meet at least one of these following rules:
- was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of their death
- was able to receive VA pension or compensation but decided not to take the pension so their retirement pay would not be reduced.
- died while receiving care from VA or VA contract at a non VA facility
- died while traveling under proper authorization by government to get an examination, get treated, or cared for.
- had a pending claim that entitled the veteran to pension money that was not claimed.
- died on or prior to October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home