On July 7th, 2014, the VA made significant changes to the burial benefits available to veterans. Under the old VA rules, survivors were required to pay for the funeral and burial expenses upfront and request reimbursement afterward. The new rules allow the VA to pay a flat rate for burial benefits without a written application.
The simplified process for receiving burial benefits is a welcome improvement for families who have lost a loved one.
The deceased must meet certain eligibility requirements established by the VA in order for survivors to receive burial benefits. For example, veterans must not have been dishonorably discharged.
The burial allowance for a service-related death is $2,000, while the allowance for a non-service related death is a $300 burial allowance and a plot allowance of $749.
Death Related to Military Service
If a veteran’s death was related to military service, the VA will pay up to $2,000 for burial and funeral expenses if the veteran’s death was after September 11th, 2001. If the death occurred prior to September 11th, 2001, then the VA will pay $1,500.
The VA can reimburse certain transportation costs for the deceased if they are buried in a VA national cemetery.
Death Not Related to Military Service
If a veteran’s death was not related to military service, the VA will pay up to $762 for a burial plot and burial reimbursement of up to $300.
Deceased veterans must meet certain eligibility requirements in order for survivors to receive burial benefits.
Veterans must meet the first requirement and at least one of the other requirements in order to be eligible:
- Veteran was receiving or was eligible to receive a VA pension at their time of death
- Veteran died because of a disability related to their time in service
- Veteran died while in a VA hospital or while receiving VA contracted care at a non-VA facility
- Veteran died while traveling under proper VA authorization
- Veteran had a pending claim at their time of death and was found to be entitled to compensation
Funeral honors consist of an honor guard detail that will perform a ceremony at the funeral of the deceased.
During the ceremony, the honor guard detail will fold and present the American flag to the next of kin, with Taps played by a bugler or via electronic recording. At least one of the honor guard detail members will be a representative of the deceased veteran’s branch of service.
Funeral honors come at no cost to the family of the deceased.
The deceased must meet at least one of the eligibility requirements for funeral honors listed below:
- Service member on active duty
- Service member in the Selected Reserve
- Former service members that were not dishonorably discharged
- Former service members that completed at least one term of enlistment and were not dishonorably discharged
- Former service members discharged due to an injury or illness that began during the line of duty
Requesting Funeral Honors
Generally, the family of the deceased can request funeral honors through their funeral director, who will coordinate with the National Cemetery Administration staff in order to provide funeral honors at the veteran’s funeral.
The funeral honors program is run through the Department of Defense. Funeral honors typically must be arranged 48 hours before the service.
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The VA will provide a headstone or marker at no charge for the unmarked grave of any eligible deceased veteran in any cemetery around the world. The VA will honor this request no matter where the deceased veteran is buried.
Applications are coordinated by the funeral director through the National Cemetery Administration, which is a department under the VA.
The following individuals can apply for a headstone:
- Next of kin
- Authorized representative on behalf of the deceased
- Authorized representative on behalf of the next of kin
If the veteran is buried in a state, national, post, or Veteran’s cemetery, then the headstone will be ordered by cemetery officials, with next of kin providing the information for the inscription.
If the burial is in a private cemetery, then the next of kin or authorized applicant must fill out VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker.