How to Tap Underutilized Burial Benefits for Veterans

Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Cemetery Administration offers a variety of underutilized burial benefits to veterans as well as their spouses and dependents.

Most U.S. veterans (both combat and non-combat) who didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge are eligible for burial benefits. To verify your discharge, you’ll need a copy of your DD Form 214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.” If you don’t have it, you can request online at

Here’s a rundown of some of the different benefits that are available to veterans that die a nonservice related death.

Military Cemetery Benefits

If you are eligible and would like to be buried in one of the 155 national or 119 state, territory or tribal-operated cemeteries (, the VA provides a number of benefits at no cost to the family, including: a gravesite; opening and closing of the grave and perpetual gravesite care; a government headstone or marker; a United States burial flag that can be used to drape the casket or accompany the urn; and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

If you are cremated, your remains will be buried or inurned in the same manner as casketed remains.

But be aware that funeral or cremation arrangements and costs are not taken care of by the VA. They are the responsibility of the veteran’s family, but some veteran’s survivors may be eligible for burial allowances.

The VA also offers a memorial web page called the Veterans Legacy Memorial for any veteran buried in a national, state, territorial, or tribal cemetery. This allows families to post pictures and stories of their loved ones online to remember and honor their service.

If you’re interested in this option, the VA has a pre-need burial eligibility determination program to help you plan ahead. See or call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.

Private Cemetery Benefits

The VA also provides benefits to veterans buried in private cemeteries. If you choose this option, the VA benefits include a free government headstone or grave marker, or a medallion that can be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker; a burial flag; and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Funeral or cremation arrangements and costs are again the responsibility of the family, and there are no benefits offered to spouses and dependents that are buried in private cemeteries.

Military Funeral Honors

Another popular benefit available to all eligible veterans buried in either a national or private cemetery is a military funeral honors ceremony. This includes an honor guard detail of at least two uniformed military persons, folding and presenting the U.S. burial flag to the veteran’s survivors, and the playing of Taps.

The funeral provider you choose will be able to assist you with all VA burial requests. Depending on what you want, certain forms may need to be completed which are always better to be done in advance.

For a complete rundown of burial and memorial benefits, eligibility details and required forms visit

Burial Allowances

In addition to the burial benefits, some veteran’s survivors may also qualify for a $948 burial allowance and $948 for a plot to those who choose to be buried in a private cemetery. And $231 for a headstone or grave marker allowance. To find out if you are eligible or to apply, see

Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.

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