As a veteran, you may be eligible to receive veterans death benefits, also known as veterans burial allowances. These benefits can help cover burial, funeral, and transportation costs.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Who Is Eligible for a Veterans Burial
- Veterans Burial Benefits
- Veterans Cemeteries
- What to Do When a Veteran Dies
If you’re wondering who can be buried in a veterans cemetery, here are the details you need to know.
Who Is Eligible for a Veterans Burial
Veteran death benefits include burial in a Veterans National Cemetery. To find out if you are eligible, the first thing you will need to do is to apply for pre-need determination of eligibility. It’s a good idea to do this well before a burial is necessary. It will save you the stress of having to apply right after a death occurs.
Note: Veteran death benefits generally do not pay for all of the funeral costs. Find out how much of an allotment of funds you will receive before making your final plans.
1. U.S. veterans
According to Benefits.gov, anyone who has died on active duty or served and was not discharged dishonorably can be buried in a national cemetery. In order to apply as the surviving spouse or dependent of a veteran, you will need the following things:
- Your Social Security number
- Your date and place of birth
- Your military status and service history (including service dates, discharge character, and rank – which is usually found on the DD214 form or other separation documents)
- Your discharge papers (DD214 form or other separation documents)
Please note that if you don’t have your discharge papers, you will be able to request them using the DD-214 form.
2. Spouses or dependent children of a service member or veteran
In order to apply as the spouse (or surviving spouse) or dependent child of a veteran, you will need basically the same things as a veteran as well as your veteran spouse’s information.
But if you’re applying on behalf of someone else, you’ll need documentation that proves you have the authority to apply for that person (VA Form 21-22).
Keep in mind that the service member or veteran you are related to doesn’t have to be alive at the time of the other’s death for them to be eligible.
3. Unmarried adult dependent children of a service member or veteran who have a disability
First, you will need to supply the same information listed above.
Second, in order to apply on behalf of an unmarried adult dependent child with a disability, supporting documents will need to be provided. These documents are to provide information about the child’s disability. This should be requested by the veteran or other guardian of the adult child.
Along with the documentation in #2, the other necessary documents must include each of these:
- The disability’s date of onset
- Disability’s description – whether mental or physical or both
- Description of how the adult child is dependent on his or her veteran parent
- Adult child’s marital status (must be unmarried)
Request these documents from the adult dependent child’s current physician.
Veterans Burial Benefits
The burial benefits that all eligible veterans are entitled to include:
- Burial in a Veterans National Cemetery
- The gravesite itself
- The opening and closing of the grave
- A burial vault or grave liner
- A headstone or grave marker
- The setting of the headstone or grave marker
- A burial flag for a family member (must be requested by next of kin)
Once again, keep in mind that the benefits will include an allotment of funds that may or may not cover all of the costs of a funeral and burial.
There are 136 Veterans National Cemeteries throughout the U.S. You may know where a national cemetery is, and it could be where you would like to be buried. One may be near where you live or – if you are a veteran – near a location where you served.
Of course, a veteran may have his or her heart set on a cemetery that’s not based on location but for other reasons. For example, a soldier may feel strongly about his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
It’s important to note, though, that even if you receive your pre-need determination of eligibility, it doesn’t mean you will definitely be buried in the pre-selected cemetery of your choice. You can’t reserve a spot in your preferred cemetery ahead of time.
Types of VA cemeteries
The Department of Veterans Affairs Cemetery Listing states that there are “151 national cemeteries in 42 states and Puerto Rico as well as 34 soldier’s lots and monument sites.” While there are many national cemeteries, they are not located in every state.
State VA cemeteries
There are State Veteran Cemeteries, as well. These cemeteries are under the charge of the individual states. If you’re interested in a burial in a state veterans cemetery, you will need to contact that cemetery directly.`
Eligibility for interment in one of these cemeteries is similar to those for the other VA cemeteries. The one difference could be a residency requirement. Some state cemeteries require that those buried there were residents of the state.
Regarding Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery
Keep in mind that the general application for burial in a VA National Cemetery does not apply to Arlington National Cemetery or the United States Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery. To request burial in one of these Department of the Army cemeteries, you will need to call 877-907-8585.
Arlington National Cemetery located in Arlington, Virginia near Washington, D.C. is the most well-known veterans cemetery in the United States. The space there is also at a premium, and the grounds have little room for expansion. Thus, the determination of in-ground burial eligibility at Arlington is not easy to obtain.
Arlington is the location of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the gravesites of U.S. presidents William H. Taft and John F. Kennedy.
The United States Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, according to the National Park Services U.S. Department of the Interior, is “one of the country’s oldest national cemeteries” and is the resting place of more than 14,000 veterans, including those from the Civil War. Residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Home - Washington are interred here.
What to Do When a Veteran Dies
Are you wondering what to do when a veteran dies? It can be overwhelming when any person dies, but there are specific things that need to be done when that someone is a veteran.
The first thing you will need to do after the death of a veteran is to notify the appropriate agencies:
- U.S. Social Security Administration
- Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System
- For retirees, Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s Retiree Casualty Section
- If the veteran is a current or retired federal civilian employee, contact the Office of Personnel Management
- U.S. VA - Veterans Benefits Administration, if the veteran was receiving disability compensation, a pension, enrolled in a VA life insurance policy, or is a retiree enrolled in the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance plan
If you’ve made pre-need funeral arrangements, you are steps ahead of many people. It will also be a relief for your family when a death actually occurs. Understanding what needs to be done as a veteran for your family or for a veteran in your family will be helpful during a difficult time.
It’s Never Too Early to Pre-Plan
When you decide to apply for burial in a VA National Cemetery, make sure you gather up the documents and information you’ll need in order to fill out your application. You’ll also need to fill out individual applications for each person
Keep in mind that burial requests for a VA National Cemetery may not be made online. But you can find the information and printable forms on the VA website.
Planning ahead will be a huge help for those involved in making funeral arrangements down the road.
- “Burial and Survivor Benefits for Veterans.” USA.gov, 2021. usa.gov
- “National Cemetery Administration.” U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2021. cem.va.gov
- “Pre-need eligibility for burial in a VA cemetery.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2021. va.gov
- “United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.” National Park Services U.S. Department of the Interior, 2021. nps.gov