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Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
VA will pay a burial allowance up to $1,500 if the veteran’s death is service-connected. VA will also pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-disabled veteran to the national cemetery that has available gravesites nearest the home of a deceased. In such cases, the person who bore the veteran’s burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA. VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance for veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled to compensation but for receipt of military retirement pay. Eligibility also is established when death occurs in a VA facility or a nursing home with which VA contracted. Additional costs of transportation of the remains may be reimbursed. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims of service-connected deaths. In other deaths, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation.
VA will pay a $150 plot allowance when the veteran is not buried in a cemetery that is under U.S. Government jurisdiction if the veteran is discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, if the veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension or would have been in receipt of compensation but for receipt of military retired pay, or if the veteran died while hospitalized by VA. The plot allowance is not payable solely on wartime service.
If the veteran is buried without charge for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials, the $150 plot allowance may be paid to the state. Burial expenses paid by the deceased’s employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed.
VA provides an American flag to drape the casket of a veteran and to a person entitled to retired military pay. After the funeral service, the flag may be given to the next of kin or a close associate. VA will also issue a flag on behalf of a service member who was missing in action and later presumed dead. Flags are issued at VA regional offices, national cemeteries, and post offices.
Burial In National Cemeteries
Burial benefits in a VA national cemetery include the gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care. Many national cemeteries have columbaria for the inurnment of cremated remains or special gravesites for the burial of cremated remains. Headstones and markers and their placement are provided at the government’s expense.
Veterans and armed forces members who die on active duty are eligible for burial in one of VA’s 114 national cemeteries. An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from active duty under honorable or general conditions and have completed the required period of service. Persons entitled to retired pay as a result of 20 years creditable service with a reserve component are eligible. A U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in a war also may be eligible.
Spouses and minor children of eligible veterans and of armed forces members also may be buried in a national cemetery. A surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who married a nonveteran, and whose remarriage was terminated by death or divorce is eligible for burial in a national cemetery.
Gravesites in national cemeteries cannot be reserved. Funeral directors or others making burial arrangements must apply at the time of death. Reservations made under previous programs are honored. The National Cemetery System normally does not conduct burials on weekends. A weekend caller, however, will be directed to one of three strategically-located VA cemetery offices that remain open during weekends to schedule burials at the cemetery of the caller’s choice during the following week.
Headstones and Markers
Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble, upright granite, and upright marble types are available to mark the grave in a style consistent with the place of burial. Niche markers also are available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.
Headstones and markers are inscribed with the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death, and branch of service. Optional items that also may be inscribed at VA expense are:
- Military grade
- Rank or rate
- War service such as World War II
- Months and days of birth and death
- Emblem reflecting one’s beliefs
- Valor awards
- The Purple Heart
Additional items may be inscribed at private expense.
When burial is in a national, state veteran, or military cemetery, the headstone marker is ordered through the cemetery, inscription, shipping and placement can be obtained from the cemetery.
When burial occurs in a cemetery other than a national, military post, or state veterans cemetery, the headstone marker must be applied for from VA. It is shipped at government expense. VA, however, does not pay the cost of placing the headstone or marker on the grave. To apply, you must complete VA form 40-1330 and forward it to:
Director, Office of Memorial Programs (403A)
National Cemetery System
Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington, DC 20420
Forms and assistance are available by calling 1-800-697-6947.
VA cannot issue a headstone or marker for a spouse or child buried in a private cemetery. Twenty-year reservists without active duty service are eligible for a headstone or marker if they are entitled to military retired pay at the time of death.
Headstones or Markers for Memorial Plots
To memorialize an eligible veteran whose remains are not available for burial, VA will provide a plot and headstone or marker in a national cemetery. The headstone or marker is the same as that used to identify a grave, except that the mandatory phrase “In Memory of” precedes the authorized inscription. The headstone or marker is available to memorialize eligible veterans or deceased active-duty members whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science, or cremated and scattered. The memorial marker may be provided for placement in a cemetery other than a national cemetery. In such a case, VA supplies the marker and pays the cost of shipping, but does not pay for the plot or the placement of the marker. Only a relative recognized as the next of kin may apply for the benefit.
Presidential Memorial Certificates
The Presidential Memorial Certificate is a parchment certificate with a calligraphic inscription expressing the nation’s recognition of the veteran’s service. The veteran’s name is inscribed and the certificate bears the signature of the President.
Certificates are issued in the name of honorably discharged, deceased veterans. Eligible recipients include next of kin, other relatives, and friends. The award of a certificate to one eligible recipient does not preclude certificates to other eligible recipients. The veteran may have died at any time in the past. The local VA regional office generally originates the application for a Presidential Memorial Certificate. The next of kin also may request a certificate. Requests should be accompanied by a copy of a document such as a discharge to establish honorable service. VA regional offices can assist in applying for certificates.