The gift of service that a Veteran, regardless of their service during a time of war, gives our nation is something that anyone can be grateful for. A Veteran who has been honorably discharged from any branch of the armed forces, as well as their spouse and minor children, are eligible for varying levels of support and recognition at time of death. With Veterans making up about 25% of all deaths and costs of funeral and burial exceeding $10,000, taking advantage of these entitlements can ease the financial and emotional strain of families planning final arrangements. Outside of the financial benefits, offering an honor ceremony, flag and presidential certificate are moving rituals and commemoration of serviceMany families find this recognition at death helpful in their time of bereavement and cherish the tokens from a grateful nation
To access Veterans benefits, it is helpful to have the Veteran’s DD-214, or discharge papers, which will state dates of service and eligibility. If seeking benefits for a spouse or minor child, marriage and death and/or birth certificates will be necessary. There are several avenues to obtain a DD-214. Visit https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/ for information. If the death has occurred before reaching out to the VA records department, funeral director can also be of assistance
Any Veteran who served active duty was honorably discharged is eligible for burial in a Veterans cemetery. The same is true for the surviving spouse of the Veteran and any minor children. The National Cemetery Scheduling Office has the primary responsibility for verifying eligibility for burial in VA national cemeteries. It is appropriate and encouraged to ensure eligibility and communicate with the cemetery prior to the death event, if possible. Your funeral director can also be of assistance in walking you through the process. For more information on establishing eligibility and making arrangements for burial in a Veteran cemetery, visit: https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/need.asp.
Financial assistance is available for funerals and burial outside of a Veterans cemetery. It is important to note that this is reimbursed, and survivors will need to submit receipts for services that have already been paid for. Per the Veterans Administration: VA will pay up to $780 toward burial and funeral expenses for deaths on or after October 1, 2018 (if hospitalized by VA at time of death), or $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death), and a $780 plot-interment allowance (if not buried in a national cemetery)Whether Veteran dies while in a VA hospital or nursing home or dies from a service. related injury will dictate the amount provided for funeral related expenses. Eligibility for burial at no expense in a Veterans cemetery is not affected. The burial and plot allowances for a non-Veterans cemetery change annually so it is important to consult the VA for up to date reimbursement rates. For additional information and direction on how to apply visit: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special- burial.asp
Running A., Shumaker N., Clark J., Dunaway L., & Tolle L. W. (2009). Veteran preferences for end-of-life care. International Journal of Older People Nursing. 4, 41–47. doi:10.1111/j.1748-3743.2008.00134.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Pension. Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/index.asp
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Persons eligible for burial in a national cemetery. Retrieved from https://www.cem.va.gov/burial_benefits/eligible.asp
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Request your military service records including DD214. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/