Most veterans are eligible to receive burial benefits through the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. However, exactly what is covered, when it is covered, and who is eligible can become confusing when it comes time to claim these benefits. Get the facts as we expose the most common myths surrounding veterans burial benefits.
Myth #1: The VA covers all funeral or cremation costs.
Many people think that being a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces means that all burial or cremation costs are covered. However, burial benefits from the VA can come in a variety of forms including monetary reimbursement, specific funeral services, and honorary recognitions.
As of July 7, 2014, veteran burial allowances are paid automatically, up to a set amount so that eligible spouses and dependents should receive automatic payment of the burial allowance once the VA has been notified of a veteran’s death. The VA will pay, at a flat rate, burial and plot allowances. For non-service related death, the burial allowance is $780, for veterans who are hospitalized by the VA at the time of death. For non-service related deaths and for veterans who are not under the care of a VA hospital at the time of death, it is $300. For a death connected to military service the burial allowance is $2,000.
Myth #2: Any military service will qualify a veteran for burial benefits.
Military service of any kind does not qualify a veteran for burial benefits. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, to receive burial benefits, a veteran must be discharged from the Armed Forces under conditions other than dishonorable and
- The Veteran must have died because of a service-related injury; or
- The Veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death; or
- The Veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay; or
- The Veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility; or
- The Veteran died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care; or
- The Veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date or death; or
- The Veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.
Myth #3: All veterans can be buried in a national cemetery.
Active duty military members who died on active duty status and veterans who meet active duty service requirements and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable are eligible to be buried in national cemetery. Benefits of being buried in a national cemetery include,
- A burial flag
- Grave care
- Headstone and grave liner provided by the government
- Opening and closing of grave
- An assigned gravesite (depending on availability)
Family members may also be buried in the national cemetery, if certain requirements are met. However, space in national cemeteries are limited and can not be reserved so there are no guarantees that a family will be buried together.
Myth #4: Veterans receive free caskets.
The VA and the DoD do not provide free caskets for veterans, unless that veteran has died while on active duty status. However, many funeral homes will offer veterans a discounted rate to show their appreciation.
Myth #5: A funeral with military honors is standard protocol for veteran burial.
Every eligible veteran will receive a military funeral honors ceremony upon request, according to the law. The ceremony includes two uniformed military personnel, the playing of “Taps”, and the folding and presentation of the flag to the next of kin. The funeral director must request military funeral honors on behalf of the family and then work with local organizations to perform those honors. If the veteran is being buried in a national cemetery, the cemetery often facilitates the honors ceremony.
Are you in the process of planning a funeral for a veteran? Or are you a veteran who would like to pre-plan your own funeral? We’d love to help you and your family through the process. Contact us today and one of our experienced funeral planners can help you get the information you need to make the decisions of your life.