Every veteran’s dream is to be buried honorably. However, that isn’t something that just happens. To be buried in a state or the national veteran’s cemetery, you’d have to plan ahead to make sure that you are accorded those honors when the time comes.
There are several veteran burial benefits that are often accorded to the VA, and it’s important to make the most appropriate arrangements as early as possible.
The Department of Veteran Affairs’ program created in 2014 streamlined the process for issuing death benefits to veterans, and the result of this is that the death benefits are paid out to the families of the veterans in need.
There also are state burial benefits for the veterans, and these benefits will vary from state to state. There also are state-run cemeteries, which would make this a better option to consider when the national VA cemetery is too far from you.
You should know that despite there being all these benefits for you to choose from, learning about the VA benefits and the funeral planning expenses is important. Despite what you could be thinking, you are not allowed to draw state and VA benefits for burial at the same time. Therefore, you need to know which of the two options is more ideal for you.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about veterans’ funeral planning expenses, what to do, and what not to do.
What is Veterans’ funeral expenses?
The Veterans’ funeral expenses refer to all the expenses that the state or the VA incus for the burial of the country’s veterans. While not all of the funeral expenses are covered or reimbursed by the state or the national government, there are qualifying factors that you need to be aware of.
In terms of burial or inurning expenses for the VA, the government pays for the opening and the closing of the grave, the grave’s perpetual care, the burial flag, and a marker or the headstone for veterans or qualifying dependents. These expenses apply to VA or dependants that are inurned or buried in the national cemetery, the National Park Cemetery, or in Arlington.
You also need to know that for veterans or their qualifying dependents buried in the state cemetery for the veterans, the burial services would be provided by the specific state rather than the VA. All the available VA or burial services offered vary widely depending on the state, but these services may also vary from state to state, or even between the state veterans’ cemetery within the same state.
Which Veteran’s Funeral Expenses are Covered by the VA?
The costs that the VA covers vary depending on whether the death has something to do with the veterans’ military service or not. Generally, the VA will pay more for all the veterans that die from service-related medical injuries or conditions than it does for the veterans who die from non-service related deaths.
Generally, in case of death that isn’t related to active service, the VA reimbursements would be divided or categorized into two payments – the funeral and burial expense allowance, and the second payment is the plot or the interment allowance.
So, which of the veteran’s funeral expenses doesn’t the VA cover?
Regardless of where the veteran or the eligible dependent/family is buried, the VA doesn’t cover the following costs: the cost of cremation, embalming or deceased body’s preparation, the cost of the urn or the casket, as well as the transportation costs of the deceased body to the cemetery.
However, there are situations where the government will be able to cover some of the funeral costs.
Some of these exceptions include:
When a member of the military dies on active duty, the military service, but not the VA, would cover most of the costs, including the cost of embalming, cremation, urn, funeral director service, as well as the transportation of the remains for the deceased.
The military would also pay for the transfer of the military retirees, as well as their family members who may die during their admission at the military hospital. This only happens if the place of burial isn’t further than the last residence of the deceased home.
The other exception to the rule is when a veteran dies while they are admitted to the VA facility, for example, at the VA medical center or a nursing home. In such cases, the VA would cover the transportation costs of the remains to the national cemetery, as long as the cemetery isn’t farther than the last residence of the deceased.
Request military-specific arrangements
You’ve probably noticed how rifles are fired, or the Taps played during military funerals. What you may not know is that for all those special things to be done, a request had to be made. Military funerals can be quite special, and when it’s possible, the US Government offers a number of no-cost programs, all meant to ensure the reverence of the life of the veteran.
Honoring servicemen and women is a privilege in most funeral homes, which is the reason why most of these homes choose to handle the cases involving arranging the VA funeral benefits. That said, you need to understand that the burial benefits that are afforded to the VAs vary.
Some of the requested military arrangements include:
- The opening and closing of the grave; this is needed for both the in-ground and the above-ground entombment. Often, the government’s program would help in the opening as well as the closing of the grave. These costs often total around $1,200.
- Perpetual Care: This is the government’s program that’s responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the veteran’s grave in perpetuity.
- Government Marker or Headstone: Regardless of the burial location or the cemetery, this is a program that gives the veteran’s grave a market or the headstone, regardless of when the veteran dies.
- Presidential Memorial Certificate: This refers to the engraved parchment paper that recognizes and thanks the veteran for their service.
- Burial Flag: With this option, the benefits program offers the American Flag that’s used in the funeral service, then passed to the next-of-kin as their keepsake.
These benefits are only available to the active servicewomen and men, as well as the discharged servicemen. It doesn’t, however, apply to the members of the service who get discharged dishonorably.
Types of military benefits
The VA changed its monetary burial benefits around VA/military burial benefits on July 14th, 2014. These changes meant the simplification of the program and the payment of the eligible survivors quickly and a lot more efficiently.
With these regulations, the VA is authorized to not pay, even without a written application, the most eligible surviving spouses’ monetary benefits. The burial benefits paid will be the maximum possible amount that is authorized by law. This is all done through the automated systems, and the reimbursements aren’t done for the actual costs incurred.
These burial benefits include:
The VA will pay for the burial and funeral expenses, but only on a reimbursement basis. The survivors are, therefore, required to submit the receipt for the smaller, one-time payments to the VA to ensure the maximum permitted amount.
With the new regulations, the VA is permitted to pay a flat rate for the plot, burial, and interment allowances, allowing the VA to make automated payments for the payment of the burial benefits for the most eligible surviving spouses. This system also ensures easy processing of other claims.
For the non-service-connected deaths, the burial allowance given is $300, while the death benefits for the death-connected military service is $2,000.
So, which are the most common types of military benefits offered.
Service-related death benefits
The VA pays as much as $2,000 for the burial expenses, specifically for the deaths that occurred on or even after September 11th, 2001. For deaths before the day, the value of the death benefits will be $1,500. Also, if a veteran is buried in the VA National Cemetery, the VA may reimburse the deceased transportation costs.
The VA pays upwards of $796 for funeral and burial expenses for the deaths of servicemen/ women on or even after 2019, October 1st. This also applies if the VA was hospitalized at the time of their death.
Alternatively, the VA would pay $300 towards the VA’s funeral and burial expenses if the individual wasn’t hospitalized by the VA at the time of their death. The VA will also pay $796 for the plot-interment allowance for individuals not buried in the national cemetery.
Then for the VA deaths that happen after or on December 1st, 2001 but not before October 1st, 2011, the VA pays $300 for the funeral and burial expenses. The same amount is also paid for deaths on or even after 1st April 1988.
The benefits’ reimbursement by the VA increases annually for the plot and burial allowances.
What are the funeral costs for veterans?
The average cost of funerals in the United States is $9,000, and the costs could be more or less depending on your circumstances. The VA funds the funeral costs, but in most cases, the VA will not cover most of the costs.
On average, the VA burial costs are at a flat-rate of $300 for non-service-connected deaths and $2,000 for the service-connected death benefits.
Who Is Eligible for VA Burial Benefits?
To be eligible for the VA Veterans burial benefits, there are guidelines that you need to meet. The specific requirements include:
- The fact that the applicant must be financially responsible for the funeral of the veteran. The applicant will also need to confirm that they haven’t been reimbursed by and from a different source.
- The veteran received a discharge from the military, other than a dishonorable discharge.
- That the veteran died because of or from a military service-related disability.
- Also, the veteran should have received or was entitled to receive compensation or VA pension at the time of their death.
- To be eligible, the veteran should have died traveling from or to receiving care at the VA, expensing to or from the specified place that resulted in the purpose of the treatment, examination, or care.
- If the veteran has a reclaimed or an original claim that was pending at the time of their death, and that at that time, they were entitled to receive compensation or even pension before their death.
- The servicemen/ servicewomen are also entitled to the VA burial benefits for veterans that died after or on 9th October 1996. This is the case while the patient is in a VA-approved-state-specific nursing home.
The other burial benefits for the VA are as follows:
Markers/headstones as well as the military funeral honors, and holding the burial in the VA’s National Cemetery.
Note that for you to make any arrangements for your loved one to be buried in the VA cemetery, you’ll need to file documentation with all the pertinent information, including the service number’s discharge paperwork or the death certificate sent by email or Fax.
The VA also advises that you’d have to contact the VA in the following circumstances:
- Interment rescheduling
- Interment cancellation
- Disinterment requests
- Information updates sent to the scheduling offices
- Relocation requests to move the body to a different national cemetery
- The information pertains to the services, hours, and benefits that are unique to specific cemeteries.
Does the military pay for funerals for veterans
Not 100%. Often, the government will not cover all the costs involved, and you may only be eligible for the reimbursement for VA’s burial expenses, especially if you paid for the funeral’s burial and if you haven’t been reimbursed by some other government agency.
Do the VA benefits cover cremation?
Cremation is the other acceptable option for veterans. But if the family chooses this option, the family could choose for the interning of the deceased urns in the National Cemetery.
The family also gets to keep the ashes, have the ashes scattered, or the ashes could be buried in a private cemetery of your choosing.
Do veterans get a free funeral?
The VA doesn’t always pay the full value of the VA’s funeral. The amount paid will vary depending on whether the death was service-connected or not.
If a veteran dies, who pays for the funeral?
The VA pays a specific amount depending on the cause of death, the terms of discharge, and whether they were in active service or not. The amount paid varies, though.
How do you retain a flag for a veteran who does not want a funeral?
- The family can apply to keep the flag.
- Why would a veteran be denied a military funeral?
- This would only happen if the veteran was given a dishonorable discharge.
- How to honor a deceased veteran at his funeral?
- The veterans receive headstones, the burial flag, medallions, markers, inscriptions, and presidential memorial certificates.
Who to contact for veteran honors at the funeral?
You’d have to contact the VA offices in the state or the national VA offices for the honors.
Why bugle during the veteran funeral?
This is done out of respect for the dead, specifically, the individuals who’ve made sacrifices, giving their lives for their countrymen and the country. The bugle is also called the Taps, and it’s regarded as the National Song for Remembrance.
What should a veteran wear to a military funeral?
Veterans wear a military uniform or dark suits and a tie, slacks, dress shirts, and a tie. Women should wear formal skirts and blouses.
How to apply for veteran funeral benefits?
To access the veteran funeral benefits, the surviving spouses eligible for the benefits will automatically receive the payments as soon as they receive notification for the death of the veteran. They won’t have to submit a claim.
The VA might also grant additional benefits to the survivors, including the internment or the plot allowance and the transportation allowance if the VA gets claims for these benefits.
If you need to make an application, you’d have to fill out the burial benefits application from the VA or the military website or offices.
For military benefits, you need to first know if the veteran is eligible for the funeral expenses or not. With the constant changes around the military laws, staying on top of the details of the coverage is critical. The information gives you the basics of funeral planning and giving your loved one in the VA the best send-off.