Burial in National Cemeteries
Burial benefits in a VA national cemetery include the grave site, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care.
Veterans and armed forces members are eligible for burial in one of VA's 114 national cemeteries. Certain states also have official veterans cemeteries, such as the Missouri State Veteran's Cemetery in Higginsville, MO. Caution must be exercised since some private cemeteries represent themselves as being "for veterans" when in fact, an official VA cemetery is always free. An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable and have completed the required period of service. A U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in a war also may be eligible. Spouses and dependent, minor children of eligible veterans and of armed forces members can usually be buried in a national cemetery. The VA cemetery will usually provide an outer burial container at no charge to the family.
Headstones and Markers
VA provides headstones and markers for the graves of veterans anywhere in the world and for eligible dependents of veterans buried in national, state veteran or federal cemeteries. Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble and upright marble types are available to mark the grave of a veteran or dependent in the style consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Niche markers also are available to mark columbariums used for the inurnment of cremated remains.
Headstones and markers are inscribed with the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death, and branch of service.
When burial is in a national cemetery, military post or state veterans cemetery, the headstone or marker is ordered through the cemetery, which will place it on the grave. Information regarding style, inscription, shipping and placement can be obtained from the cemetery.
When burial occurs in a cemetery other than a national cemetery or a state veterans cemetery, the headstone or marker must be applied for from VA. It is shipped at government expense to the person designated on the application. VA, however, does not pay the cost of placing the headstone or marker on the grave.
Eligibility for a VA headstone or marker is the same as for burial in a national cemetery. VA cannot issue a headstone or marker for a spouse or dependent buried in a private cemetery.
Presidential Memorial Certificates
The Presidential Memorial Certificate is a parchment certificate with a calligraphic inscription expressing the nation's grateful recognition of the veteran's service. The veteran's name is inscribed and the certificate bears the signature of the President.
Certificates are issued in the name of honorably discharged, deceased veterans. Eligible recipients include next of kin, other relatives and friends. The award of a certificate to one eligible recipient does not preclude certificates to other eligible recipients. The veteran may have died at any time in the past. The local VA regional office generally originates the application for a Presidential Memorial Certificate if a veteran's death is brought to official attention. The next of kin may request a certificate when a service member dies on active duty, or if the veteran was not receiving a VA benefit. Requests should be accompanied by a copy of a document such as a discharge to establish honorable service. VA regional offices can assist in applying for certificates.
The funeral home will provide a VA-issued American flag to drape the casket of a veteran who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and to a person entitled to retired military pay, including reservists. After the funeral service, the flag may be given to the next of kin or a close associate of the deceased. VA also will issue a flag on behalf of a service member who was missing in action and later presumed dead.
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
VA will pay a burial allowance up to $1,500 if the veteran's death is service-connected. 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 grave sites. In such cases, the person who bore the veteran's burial expenses may claim reimbursement directly from the VA.
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 is established when death occurs in a VA facility or a nursing home with which VA contracted. Additional costs of transportation of the remains may be reimbursed in those cases.
Concerning service-connected deaths, there is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims. In other deaths, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation.
VA will pay a $150 burial allowance when the veteran is not buried in a cemetery that is under U.S. government jurisdiction if the veteran is discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty or if the veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension or would have been in receipt of compensation but for receipt of military retired pay, or if the veteran died while hospitalized by VA. As of Nov. 1, 1990, the plot allowance is no longer payable based solely on wartime service.
If the veteran is buried without charge for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials, the $150 plot allowance may be paid to the state. If burial expenses were paid by the deceased's employer or a state agency, the burial allowance will not be reimbursed to those making interment arrangements.