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Veterans Memorial

Veterans have made important sacrifices for our country, and they deserve to be honored and remembered for their service. As a veteran, you and your loved one may qualify for burial benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, there are many misconceptions about these benefits, so it’s important to understand what they include, who qualifies and how to request them. Here’s what you need to know.

The VA pays for some, but not all, funeral or cremation expenses.

When a veteran dies, who pays for the funeral? A lot of people think the U.S. government pays for all funeral expenses. Others think a veteran gets a free cremation. However, only under certain circumstances, such as when a serviceman or servicewoman is killed in the line of duty, does the VA pay all costs for a funeral or cremation. There are other cases when certain monetary, recognition and service benefits may be available. They include:

  • when a veteran dies because of a service-related disability.
  • when a veteran was receiving or was entitled to receive a VA pension or compensation at the time of death.
  • when a veteran dies while receiving care at a VA hospital or a facility under contract with the VA to provide care.

Some VA death benefits do apply to all honorably discharged veterans, and some veterans may be eligible for allowances that will help with funeral and burial costs. However, even under the most generous circumstances, the allowances fall far short of the actual costs of a funeral or cremation, and the family needs to make up the difference. This is why planning and funding final arrangements ahead of time can be very beneficial.

VA burial benefits include a gravesite in a veterans cemetery for both the veteran and his or her spouse.

Veterans and their spouses can be buried in one of the 138 national VA cemeteries or any state veterans cemetery with space available for veterans and their spouses. Benefits for a veteran who chooses to be buried in one of those cemeteries also include a burial liner, grave opening and closing costs, a grave marker or headstone, and perpetual care. These benefits apply to both casket burial and cremation memorialization.

Don’t live close to a VA cemetery? A veteran can be transferred to any national cemetery with space at the family’s expense. Some state VA cemeteries, however, require the veteran to have been a resident of that state at the time of death or have other rules around eligibility. State veterans cemeteries are run solely by the states, and you’ll need to contact the cemetery directly for information.

Check the National Cemetery Administration burial benefits page to determine eligibility requirements for national and private cemetery burial funding. Your McDermotts provider can help you select either a VA national cemetery, a state veterans cemetery or a private cemetery anywhere in the United States and plan a fitting tribute.

 

VA death and burial allowance amounts are small compared to the actual cost of services.

Maximum allowances for VA death benefits vary according to how and where a veteran passes. Below are the most recent allowances. See the allowances for previous years at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Maximum allowances for a service-connected death:
  • If the veteran died on or after September 11, 2001: $2,000
  • If the veteran died before September 11, 2001: $1,500
  • If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, the family may be reimbursed for some or all of the costs of relocating their loved one.
Maximum allowances for a death unrelated to service:
  • If the veteran died on or after October 1, 2021: $300 burial allowance and $828 for a cemetery plot
Maximum allowances for a death unrelated to service if the veteran was hospitalized by the VA at the time of death:
  • If the veteran died on or after October 1, 2021: $828 burial allowance and $828 for a cemetery plot
  • The family might be reimbursed for some or all of the costs of relocating their loved one if the veteran was hospitalized or in a VA-contracted nursing home at the time of death or passed while traveling to VA-authorized care.
Maximum headstone or marker allowance:
  • If the veteran died on or after October 1, 2021: $231

With the average funeral cost in the United States reaching $7,848 in 2021 and the average cremation cost reaching $5,365, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, it’s easy to see how VA death and burial allowance amounts fall way short of actual costs.

VA burial benefits are not automatic.

Before VA death benefits are conferred, a veteran’s family must request and present proper documentation. In most cases, the VA will need to see discharge papers (a report called DD 214) to determine eligibility. Often, families don’t have these papers or know where they are. In that case, a McDermotts provider can help secure them. Contact us for help now.

Additionally, a family must request all of the benefits for which their loved one is eligible.

Claims for allowances for a death not related to service must be filed within two years of the veteran’s funeral or cremation. There’s no time limit to file for a service-connected funeral, cremation or burial allowance.

Veterans Memorial