Your deceased friend or loved one served in the military, and you wonder if our government will provide any benefits. The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers programs to help with funerals and burials of qualifying veterans and can help support the surviving spouse and unmarried children. So, how can the VA help when a veteran dies?
Burial in a National Cemetery
Any veteran not dishonorably discharged can be buried in one of the 135 national cemeteries, depending on the space available. The veteran must have served for at least 24 continuous months or the full term of the veteran’s call for active duty, if less than 24 months. To see if your loved one is eligible, fax the discharge papers to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417, then telephone 1-800-535-1117 to follow up.
Veterans who are not eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery include people:
- With a dishonorable military discharge never amended
- With a bar from veterans benefits due to their character of service
- With orders to report, but were never inducted into service
- With a final conviction of a federal or state crime for which they could have received the death penalty or life in prison.
- With a final conviction of a Tier III sex crime and were sentenced to at least life in prison
- With a conviction for subversive activities, unless pardoned by the President of the United States
- Whose only military service was active or inactive duty training in the National Guard or the Reserves.
Cash Burial Benefits
If you paid for a funeral for your loved one, who was a veteran, you might get some of your costs reimbursed. The veteran must meet the eligibility requirements for VA burial benefits. If you, as the claimant, did not have to pay for a funeral, the VA will not give you cash for the burial benefits. This is because the program should reimburse you for out-of-pocket costs. The VA may reimburse transportation costs, if the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery.
The VA will reimburse you up to $2,000 for the burial expenses of a veteran whose death was service-related. If your loved one’s death was not service-related, but the veteran died in a VA hospital, the VA will reimburse you up to $762 for the funeral and burial expenses. The VA funeral and burial expense reimbursement for a non-service-related death, in which the veteran did not die in a VA hospital, is $300. If your loved one was not buried in a national cemetery after a non-service-related death, the VA will give you an allowance of $762 for plot-interment.
Burial at Sea
Your loved one might be allowed a burial at sea. However, the National Cemetery Administration will not pay for it or arrange. The U. S. Navy Mortuary Affairs handles burials at sea. You can call them for information at 1-866-787-0081. The government will sometimes provide a headstone or marker for a veteran with a burial at sea.
If you are the surviving spouse or unmarried child of a deceased veteran who served during a time of war, you might be entitled to a tax-free Survivors Pension (also called a Death Pension). You must be low income and remain unmarried. There are strict eligibility requirements. Therefore, contact the VA regional benefits office in your area to apply.
This article discusses the general law. There may be additional benefits available in your state, so check with a veteran’s rights lawyer in your area.
- S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “National Cemetery Administration: Eligibility.” (accessed January 9, 2018) https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/eligible.asp
- S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Compensation: Burial Benefits.” (accessed January 9, 2018) https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special-burial.asp
- S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Survivors Pension.” (accessed January 9, 2018) https://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/spousepen.asp
U. S. Department of Veterans Affaris. “Burial at Sea.” (accessed January 9, 2018) https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/burial_at_sea.asp