Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
Chapter 3 Burial and Memorial Benefits
Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors
Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors
VA operates 135 national cemeteries, of which 75 are currently open for both new casket and cremation interments and 17 may accept new interment of cremated remains only. Burial options are limited to those available at a specific cemetery and may include in-ground casket, or interment of cremated remains in a columbarium, in ground, or in a scattering area. For more information, visit the National Cemetery Administration website at http://www.cem.va.gov.
Burial in VA National Cemeteries
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces, and Veterans who have met minimum active duty service requirements, and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty, while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, or were called to active duty and served the full term of service for which they were called, may also be eligible for burial.
Their surviving spouse, minor children, and, under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities, may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran.
With certain exceptions, active duty service beginning after Sept. 7, 1980, as an enlisted person, and after Oct. 16, 1981, as an officer, must be for a minimum of 24 consecutive months or the full period of active duty (as in the case of reservists or National Guard members called to active duty for a limited duration). Active duty for training, by itself, while serving in the reserves or National Guard, is not sufficient to confer eligibility. Reservists and National Guard members, as well as their spouses and dependent children, are eligible if they were entitled to retired pay at the time of death, or would have been upon reaching requisite age.
VA may bar eligible individuals from receiving burial and memorial benefits if they are found to have committed serious federal or state crimes or serious sex offenses. Such benefits include burial in a VA national cemetery, and receipt of a government-furnished headstone, marker, medallion, burial flag and Presidential Memorial Certificate. Veterans and other claimants for VA burial benefits have the right to appeal decisions made by VA regarding eligibility for burial and memorial benefits. Readers with questions on the appeals process may contact the nearest VA national cemetery listed at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/listcem.asp or by calling 800-827-1000.
Surviving spouses of Veterans who died on or after Jan. 1, 2000, do not lose eligibility for burial in a national cemetery if they remarry.
Unmarried dependent children of Veterans who are under 21 years of age, or under 23 years of age if a full-time student at an approved educational institution, are eligible for burial. Unmarried adult children who become physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support before age 21, or age 23 if a full-time student, may also be eligible.
Certain parents of service members who die as a result of hostile activity or from combat training-related injuries may be eligible for burial in a national cemetery with their child. The biological or adopted parents of a service member who died in combat or while performing training in preparation for a combat mission, who leaves no surviving spouse or dependent child, may be buried with the deceased service member if there is available space. Eligibility is limited to service members who died on or after Oct. 7, 2001, and biological or adoptive parents who died on or after Oct. 13, 2010.
The next of kin or authorized representative (e.g., funeral director) makes interment arrangements at the time of need by contacting the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at NCA.Scheduling@va.gov or, in some cases, the national cemetery in which burial is desired. VA does not normally conduct burials on weekends. Gravesites cannot be reserved; however, VA will honor reservations made before 1973 by the Department of the Army.
Pre-Need Burial Eligibility Determination: VA implemented the Pre-Need Burial Eligibility Determination Program to assist individuals interested in determining their eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery. Through this program, Veterans and their eligible family members can plan in advance to use VA burial benefits that Veterans have earned through their military service. Planning in advance for a Veteran’s or loved-one’s final resting place can eliminate unnecessary delays during a family’s time of bereavement. Veteran families will have increased confidence that their loved ones are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery at their time of need. To apply, individuals must submit VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery (available at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/) to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office by fax, email or mail. For more details, visit http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/pre-need/index.asp .
Burial Headstones and Markers: VA is authorized to furnish, upon request, an inscribed headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of an eligible decedent at any national, state Veterans, tribal, or private cemetery. VA will deliver a headstone or marker at no cost, anywhere in the world. For Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients, VA is authorized to provide a supplemental headstone or marker if the recipient served in the Armed Forces on or after April 6, 1917 and is eligible for a headstone or marker (or would be but for the individual’s date of death), even if the grave is already marked with a private headstone or marker. For eligible Veterans or service members (who are not MOH recipients) buried in a private cemetery whose deaths occurred on or after Nov. 1, 1990, VA may furnish a government headstone or marker even if the grave is already marked with a private one.
Spouses and dependent children are eligible for a government headstone or marker only if they are buried in a national or state Veterans cemetery.
Before requesting a headstone or marker for use in a private cemetery, eligible applicants should check with the cemetery to ensure the government-furnished headstone or marker will be accepted.
Applicants for burial headstones and markers include the decedent’s spouse or individual in a legal union with the decedent, the decedent’s child, parent or sibling, whether biological, adopted or step relation, and any lineal or collateral descendant of the decedent, personal representative, Veterans Service Organization, individual employed by state or local government responsible for serving Veterans, individuals with legal responsibility for the disposition of the unclaimed remains of the decedent or other matters related to interment or memorialization, or anyone if the decedent’s dates of service ended prior to April 6, 1917 (applies to others whose eligibility is derived). All installation fees at private cemeteries are the responsibility of the applicant.
Memorial Markers: VA provides memorial headstones and markers for placement in a national cemetery, VA-funded state or tribal Veterans cemetery, or private cemetery with “IN MEMORY OF” as the first line of inscription for those whose remains are unavailable for burial. Remains that are unavailable for burial are those that have not been recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science or cremated and scattered completely. Eligibility is the same as for burial headstones and markers. For memorial headstone or marker requests, applicants must be a member of the decedent’s family (spouse, individual in a legal union with the decedent, child, parent, or sibling, whether biological, adopted, or step relation, and any lineal or collateral descendant of the decedent).
To submit a claim for a headstone or marker, or for a memorial marker for placement in a private cemetery, use VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker (available at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/) and provide a copy of the Veteran’s military discharge documents or proof of military service. Claims sent without supporting documents will be delayed until eligibility can determined. Mail the completed form and supporting documents to Memorial Products Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Road, Quantico, VA 22134-3903. The form and supporting documents may also be faxed toll free to 1-800-455-7143.
Inscriptions: Headstones and markers must be inscribed with the name of the deceased, branch of service, and year of birth and death. They also may be inscribed with other optional information, including an emblem of belief and, space permitting, additional text including military rank; war service such as “WORLD WAR II”; complete date of birth and death; military awards; military organizations; civilian or Veteran affiliations; and personalized words of endearment.
Medallion in lieu of government headstone or marker for private cemeteries: For decedents who served in the U.S. Armed Forces onor after April 6, 1917, and are eligible for VA memorialization benefits (or would be but for date of death), VA is authorized to provide a medallioninstead of a headstone or marker if the grave is in a privatecemetery and already marked with a privately-purchased headstoneor marker. The VA medallion denotes the decedents’ status as aVeteran.
To submit a claim for a medallion to be affixed to a private headstone or marker in a private cemetery, use VA Form 40-1330M, Claim for Government Medallion for Placement in A Private Cemetery (available at http://www.va.gov/vaforms) and provide a copy of the Veteran’s military discharge documents or proof of military service. Claims sent without supporting documents will be delayed until eligibility can determined. Mail the completed form and supporting documents to Memorial Products Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Road, Quantico, VA 22134-3903. The form and supporting documents may also be faxed toll free to 1-800-455-7143. To check the status of a claim for a headstone or marker for placement in a national, state, or tribal Veterans cemetery, please call 202-565-4964. To check the status of one being placed in a private cemetery, please contact the Applicant Assistance Unit at 1-800-697-6947.
Presidential Memorial Certificates (PMCs): PMCs are issued to honor the memory of deceased persons VA finds eligible for burial in a national cemetery. This includes persons who died on active military, naval, or air service, members of Reserve components of the Armed Forces, including Army or Air National Guard, members of the Army, Navy, or Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or persons who at death were entitled to retired pay or would have been but for age. Eligible recipients include the next of kin, a relative, friend, or authorized service representative acting on behalf of a relative or friend, may request a PMC by mailing, or faxing a completed and signed VA Form 40-0247, Presidential Memorial Certificate Request Form along with a copy of the Veteran’s military discharge documents or proof of military service. Requests sent without supporting documents will be delayed until eligibility can determined. More information can be found at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/pmc.asp .
Burial Flags: VA will furnish a U.S. burial flag to recognize deceased Veterans who received an other than dishonorable discharge. This includes certain persons who served in the organized military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines while in service of the U.S armed forces and who died on or after April 25, 1951. Also eligible for a burial flag are Veterans who were entitled to retired pay for service in the Reserve or National Guard, or would have been entitled if over age 60; and members or former members of the Selected Reserve who served their initial obligation, or were discharged for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or died while a member of the Selected Reserve. The next of kin may apply for the burial flag at any VA Regional Office or U.S. Post Office by completing VA Form 21-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes. In most cases, a funeral director will help the family obtain the flag. For more information, visit, http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/ burial_flags.asp .
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses: VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the Veteran’s death is service-connected. In such cases, the person who bore the Veteran’s burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA. In some cases, VA will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a Veteran whose death was service-connected to the nearest national cemetery with available gravesites. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims in service-connected death cases.
Burial Allowance: VA will pay a burial and funeral allowance of up to $2,000 for Veterans who die from service-connected injuries. VA will pay a burial and funeral allowance of up to $300 for Veterans who, at the time of death from nonservice-connected injuries were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled if they were not receiving military retirement pay. VA will pay a burial and funeral allowance of up to $734 when the Veteran’s death occurs in a VA facility, a VA-contracted nursing home or a state Veterans nursing home. In cases in which the Veteran’s death was not service-connected, claims must be filed within two years after burial or cremation.
Plot Allowance: VA will pay a plot allowance of up to $734 when a Veteran is buried in a cemetery not under U.S. government jurisdiction if: The Veteran was discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; the Veteran was receiving compensation or pension or would have been if the Veteran was not receiving military retired pay; or the Veteran died in a VA facility. The plot allowance may be paid to the state for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for Veteran burials if the Veteran is buried without charge. Burial expenses paid by the deceased’s employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed. For more information about burial and memorial benefits, please call 202-632-8035 or visit www.cem.va.gov/.
Veterans Cemeteries Administered by Other Agencies: The Department of the Army administers Arlington National Cemetery and other Army installation cemeteries. Eligibility is generally more restrictive than at VA national cemeteries. For information, call (703)607-8000, write Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211 or visit http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/about . The Department of the Interior, National Park Service maintains 14 national cemeteries located within larger park units. To view a list that includes overviews of these cemeteries, visit http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/doi.asp . Andersonville National Cemetery in Andersonville, Georgia is the only one of these 14 cemeteries that is open to new interments within the national park boundaries. For more information, call (202) 208-4747, or write Department of the Interior National Park Service, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20240.
State and Tribal Veterans Cemeteries: There are currently 105 VA grant-funded Veterans cemeteries operating in 47 states, tribal nations and U.S. Territories that offer burial options for Veterans and their families. VA grant-funded cemeteries have similar eligibility requirements and certain states and tribal organizations may require state residency or tribal membership. Some services, particularly for family members, may require a fee. Contact the state or tribal Veterans cemetery or the state Veterans Affairs office for information.
To locate a state or tribal Veterans cemetery, visit http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/grants/index.asp .
Unclaimed Veterans Remains: “Unclaimed Veterans” are defined as those who die with no next of kin to claim their remains and insufficient funds to cover burial expenses. In addition to burial in a VA national, VA-funded state or tribal Veterans cemetery and a government headstone or marker, there are monetary benefits associated with burial of unclaimed Veterans remains. These monetary benefits include reimbursement for the cost of the casket or urn used for burial, reimbursement for transportation to a national, state or tribal cemetery, and a burial allowance and plot allowance.
More information on memorial and monetary burial benefits for unclaimed Veteran remains can be found at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/docs/factsheets/CasketUrn_Reimbursement.pdf . Applicants must submit VA Form 40-10088, Request for Reimbursement of Casket/Urn. For Veterans who die while at a VA facility under authorized VA admission or at a non-VA facility under authorized VA admission, and are unclaimed, the closest VA healthcare facility is responsible for arranging proper burial for the unclaimed Veteran.