Many veterans and their families are unaware of what veteran benefits are available to them upon their death. With Memorial Day approaching, it’s the perfect time to inform veterans and their families about these benefits and how to claim them.
We’ll discuss who’s eligible, what these veteran benefits are, and how to go about claiming them. This way, you can make sure your veteran is honored and remembered properly for the sacrifices they made for our country.
Who’s Eligible for Veteran Benefits?
Burial is free for eligible veterans in one of the 135 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cemeteries depending on availability. This includes opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. We’ll go into more detail about some of these benefits in the next section.
Some veterans may be eligible for a burial allowance depending on their date of death and other factors. If qualified, the VA pays up to $2,000 toward burial for service-related deaths and up to $300 for non-service-related deaths.
For more information on qualification for veteran benefits, check out this article from the VA.
Eligible veterans must be discharged under non-dishonorable conditions and must have died from a service-related disability, or any of the following:
- Was receiving VA pension or compensation at time of death.
- Was eligible to receive VA pension or compensation but decided not to reduce military retirement or disability pay.
- Died while hospitalized by VA or while cared under VA contract at a non-VA facility.
- Died while traveling under VA expense and authorization to a place for examination, treatment, or care.
- Had an original or reopened claim pending at their time of death and were entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to their death.
- Died on or after October 9, 1996, while admitted to a VA-approved state nursing home.
Note, the VA doesn’t pay burial benefits for the following reasons:
- Died during active military service.
- Was a member of Congress who died while holding office.
- Was a federal prisoner.
What Benefits Are There?
The burial flag either drapes over the casket or goes with the urn. Then after the funeral service, the next of kin receives it.
The VA provides the plot and headstone/marker in national cemeteries for burial or memorialization if the remains aren’t available. The burial of cremated remains is the same as casketed remains. If burial is in a different cemetery, the VA provides only the headstone/marker.
For more information, check out this link about headstones and markers.
Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC)
A PMC is a certificate recognizing the veteran’s service to our nation and includes the veteran’s name and the President’s signature.
Military Funeral Honors
Military funeral honors typically include playing Taps, flag folding, and flag presentation. Some other elements may be rifle detail, color guard, pallbearers, caisson (cart for carrying the casket), and a military flyover.
The United States Navy offers Burial At Sea including a final ceremony and disposition of cremated or casketed remains. However, family members can’t be present on the ship.
Check out this link to the VA National Cemetery Administration for more information about the different benefits available.
How Do You Claim Them?
When claiming benefits, surviving spouses are paid after notification of the veteran’s death and don’t need to file a claim. Or, the survivor of a legal union, children, parents, or the executor or administrator of the veteran’s estate may file a claim.
To file a claim, complete this form and attach copies of the veteran’s military discharge document (DD Form 214) and a death certificate. Then, mail the completed form to your state’s VA regional office. Check out this search tool to find your state’s VA office address.
If the veteran wants to be buried in a VA national cemetery, tell your chosen funeral director. Give them a copy of the veteran’s DD214 form and then they’ll take care of the rest. Also, if there’s enough space, most national cemeteries allow a veteran’s spouse, children, and other family members to be buried there as well.