Veterans serve their country when it matters the most, and this is an act of selflessness. Veterans deserve so much compassion and respect, both in life and what comes after. This is why it’s important to know your fully veteran death benefits. There are a lot of different benefits that help reduce the burden of end-of-life costs for families after a loss.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Who Qualifies for Veteran Death Benefits in Florida?
- Benefits Available for Veterans Living in Florida
- Benefits Available for a Veteran’s Spouse in Florida
- How to Claim Veteran Benefits in Florida
Though many veteran benefits are federally organized, there are some state-specific differences. It’s important to understand all of your options, whether you’re planning for yourself or a loved one. Florida, in particular, has a large number of veterans. This is because the Sunshine State is a natural destination for many retirees from across the nation, including veterans.
Florida is home to a reported 1.5 million veterans, as well as their families and survivors with earned benefits. With a large Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, how do veterans' death benefits in Florida work? Unlike other states, Florida has a department specifically within the state’s government to serve veterans and their families.
Who Qualifies for Veteran Death Benefits in Florida?
To begin, what veteran death benefits are available in Florida? Not everyone who served in the military or who is related to a military veteran qualifies for these benefits. In Florida, you’re considered a state Veteran or Service Member if you meet these requirements below:
- U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
- Florida resident for at least one year prior to time of death
If the above requirements are true, then this individual qualifies for death benefits. However, some family members (children and spouses) also qualify for assistance in specific circumstances. In the case of marriage, the marriage had to have taken place one year prior to the occurrence of the veteran’s disability or death. Children also need to be within a certain age bracket.
If a service member was dishonorably discharged from military service, he or she is no longer eligible for benefits. An honorable discharge or retirement, however, still qualifies a veteran for benefits. When in doubt about your qualification requirements, contact your local branch of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Benefits Available for Veterans Living in Florida
Now that you know who qualifies, what benefits are available for veterans who live in Florida? There are unique veteran benefits for those who search Florida National Guard, but some of these death benefits are universal for all servicemen or women.
Florida National Guard death benefits
If a Florida National Guard Service member is killed or died as a result of an injury on state active duty, there is a special death benefit. The state pays $75,000 to the beneficiaries of any active-duty death. Similarly, beneficiaries of a service member who dies of a non-line of duty cause receive $25,000.
State-sponsored life insurance
Similarly, members of the Florida National Guard receive low-cost life insurance. This begins with a no-cost $1,000 death benefit. Any actively serving guide is covered 24/7. Otherwise, there are additional coverage options that provide up to $250,000 for spouses and beneficiaries.
Federal Life Insurance
The federal VA department also has its own version of life insurance benefits to all veterans, as well as active service members. Programs include Veterans’ Group Life Insurance, Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, and more.
TRICARE medical coverage
This is a premium-based medical insurance plan that is available for members who are on active duty orders. Comprehensive health care coverage is provided through state and federal-sponsored TRICARE facilities and hospitals. These cover any costs associated with end-of-life care, hospice, and palliative care.
Florida Veterans’ nursing homes and assisted living
As a Florida veteran, you have access to seven skilled nursing facilities and one assisted living facility. They are operated by the VA and the Agency for Health Care Administration. This is offered exclusively for veterans, and it reduces end-of-life costs for families.
One of the most well-known benefits for veterans is the burial benefit. This allows all honorably discharged veterans, spouses, and dependents burial in a national cemetery. This burial is provided at no cost to the family. Cremated remains can also be buried within a national cemetery.
Within this benefit, the VA provides all memorial products. This includes the grave liner, gravesite, headstone or marker, U.S. burial flag, and a military funeral. Alternatively, a VA headstone can be placed on a private cemetery at no cost.
Service-related death benefit
If the veteran passes of a service-related death, there are special benefits. The VA pays up to $2,000 toward any burial or cremation expenses. However, prior to September 11, 2001, this was only a $1,500 benefit.
Non-service-related death benefit
For those who pass of natural causes or something outside of the line of service, there is a different type of death benefit. The VA pays up to $796 toward burial and funeral expenses for any death on or after October 1, 2019. This is only if the recipient was hospitalized by the VA at the time of death.
Alternatively, if not hospitalized, there is a $300 reimbursement toward burial or funeral expenses. There is an additional $300 plot allowance. When someone dies under the care of a VA hospital, support will be offered at the time of death.
Benefits Available for a Veteran’s Spouse in Florida
Next, benefits aren’t just for veterans in Florida. Many veteran’s spouses also qualify for benefits both before and after death. Here is a brief overview of the most common death benefits for spouses of veterans in the Sunshine State.
First, many veteran spouses qualify for medical coverage under the Department of Defense’s TRICARE program. This includes programs related to disabilities, long-term care, and more. Spouses, children, and surviving dependents usually qualify for this medical coverage.
As a family member of a veteran, spouses also qualify for many types of veteran life insurance. This includes Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) coverage. You can also be on the veteran’s policy as the sole beneficiary in case of death.
National cemetery burial
In some cases, veteran spouses can be buried in national cemeteries at no cost. The best way to know if this applies to you is to check your pre-need eligibility status. If you're the spouse of a service member or veteran (even if he/she already passed), you are likely eligible. However, you can’t be re-married.
Memorial markers like headstones, niche markers, or US flags are sometimes available for veteran spouses who are buried in national cemeteries. Eligible family members can receive one gravesite and headstone per individual.
Lastly, any surviving spouse of a service member or veteran who was actively serving at their time of death qualifies for bereavement counseling. This is done through the VA, and it provides transition services like outreach, counseling, and referrals.
How to Claim Veteran Benefits in Florida
Whether you’re seeking services for a veteran or helping a spouse through a loss, there is a specific process to claim veteran benefits in Florida. Though the paperwork involved can often be overwhelming, it’s worth the peace of mind.
Step 1: Check your eligibility
Before you begin, check your own eligibility or your loved one’s eligibility. The requirements aren’t always clear, so you might need to ask your local VA office directly. You can pre-apply prior to death to establish eligibility when creating an end-of-life plan.
Step 2: Gather your information
Next, you’ll need to gather key information. To apply for yourself or a loved one, make sure you have the following:
- Social Security Number
- Military status and service history
- Discharge papers
- Date and place of birth
- Personal information (if applying as a spouse)
- Marriage documents (if applying as a spouse)
From there, you can apply through the VA using the steps below.
Step 3: Apply online or by mail
The easiest way to apply for eligibility is online, however, you can also fill out forms via mail. Apply for most death benefits through the VA website. If you need help filling out your application, contact the VA directly at 1-800-535-1117. Alternatively, contact your local Florida-based VA office.
Step 4: Keep track of all costs
If you’re applying for benefits after someone’s death, keep track of all costs associated with final arrangements. Many of these can be reimbursed later on by the VA. Still, it could take weeks or months for the paperwork to be processed. In the meantime, keep accurate records.
Honor a Veteran in Florida
Ultimately, the Sunshine State is home to a growing number of veterans. As a haven for retirees of all backgrounds, what better place to spend one’s Golden Years? Similarly, Florida’s coastline makes it a popular place for many different bases and military locations. If you’re seeking death benefits for a veteran or a surviving relative, you’re in the right place.
Florida’s veterans are proud to have served their country, and they’re happy to call Florida home. It’s important to honor veterans not only in their lifetimes but also by keeping their memories alive for years to come.
- “Florida Veterans’ Benefits Guide 2021.” FDVA. FloridaVets.org.