Eligible veterans and their families have special benefits available to them when it comes to funeral and burial. Having the veteran express his or her wishes ahead of time will make the processes of funeral preparation much easier on the surviving family members.
A Flag for The Casket
All veterans are entitled to drape an American flag over their casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran at burial. This flag is most often given to next of kin as a keepsake for the family, however, if there is no next of kin a friend of the deceased may also request one. Veteran’s families may apply for United States flag for burial purposes by filling out a VA Form 21–2008. Survivors may go to any VA Regional Office or US Post Office to obtain a flag. Funeral directors will also be able to assist you with this request.
Form 21–2008 comes complete with directions on how to fold the flag and display it. These flags are made of cotton and are easily weather damage so they are not appropriate for outside use for any extended period of time. After the funeral is concluded the flag is folded and given to the next of kin. Parents are eligible to receive a flag and flag case even if they are not listed as primary next of kin. If the veteran happens to be buried in a VA cemetery that has an Avenue of Flags, the veteran’s family may donate the burial flag to be flown on patriotic holidays. The donating party will receive a Certificate of Appreciation as a show of gratitude for their donation. By law the VA may only provide one flag per veteran, so if for any reason the flag is damage or lost it cannot be replaced through VA. Outside organizations, however, often will assist with obtaining a replacement.
National Cemetery Burial
Those who served their country honorably are entitled to special burial rights and death benefits. The following groups of service members are eligible for burial in a national cemetery with a marker and a flag.
Group 1 - Armed forces members that encompass the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard with the following requirements:
Any servicemember that has died during active duty
Any veteran with the discharge status other than dishonorable under the following conditions: if an officer whose service began after October 16, 1981 or enlisted member who service began after September 7, 1980 must have served a minimum of 24 continuous months or the full period in which they were called to active duty.
Group 2 - Reserve members
Any Reservist or National Guard member who, at the time of death, was entitled to retired pay under Chapter 1223, title 10, United States Code, or would have been entitled, except for the fact they weren't under the age of 60
Any veteran of the Guard or Reserve who was honorably discharged and put in at least 20 years of qualifying service. One year of qualifying service is defined as one in which you have accrued at least 50 points towards retirement
Any member of the Reserve Army National Guard or Air National Guard who had died during hospitalization or treatment at government expense for an injury or disease that was contracted or incurred will serving on active duty for training or in active-duty training or undergoing such hospitalization for such treatment
Any member of the ROTC or Reserve Officers Training Corps of the Army Navy or Air Force who died under honorable conditions while attending an authorized training camp will cruise or while performing authorized travel to or from these camps or cruise or hospitalized or undergoing treatment at government expense for injury or diseases contracted or incurred under honorable conditions while performing one of these activities
Any member of the Reserves who while on active duty for training were disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty or during a period of inactivity duty training were disabled or died from an injury or certain cardiovascular disorders incurred or aggravated in the line of duty
Group 3 - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officers, formally known as the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Environmental Science Services Administration, who served full-time duty on or after July 29, 1945. In the case that the veteran has already died, family members may add headstones or markers of the former servicemember.
Those serving before July 29, 1945 if he or she was assigned to an area of immediate military hazard as determined by the Secretary of Defense while in the time of war or international emergency declared by the President or in the Philippine Islands on December 7, 1941 and continuously in such islands there after
Group 4 - Public Health Service
Any Commissioned Officer of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service serving full-time duty on or after July 29, 1945 and who were disabled or died from any disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty
Any Commissioned Officer of Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service who served prior to July 29, 1945 serving in time of war on detail for duty with the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard or while service was part of military forces of the United States pursuant to Executive Order of the President
Any Commissioned Officer serving on inactive-duty training who died as a result from an injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty
Group 5 - World War II Merchant Mariners
Any Merchant Mariners with oceangoing service during the period of armed conflict from December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946 are eligible as well as US Merchant Mariners who served on blockships in support of Operation Mulberry during World War II
Group 6 - Philippine Armed Forces
These burial rights are extended to certain Philippine veterans of World War II. The following requirements must be met in order to receive these burial rights: The Philippine veteran must have been a citizen of United States or in alien that was legally admitted for permanent residents who was residing in the US at the time of their death and have served before July 1, 1946 in the organized military forces of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines while those forces were in service of the US Armed Forces(including guerrilla forces under commanders appointed designated or subsequently recognized by the Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific area or other competent authority in the US Army) and who died on or after November 1, 2000 or those veterans who were enlisted between October 6, 1945 and June 30, 1947 with the Armed Forces of United States with the consent of the Philippine government died on or after December 16th 2003
Group 7 – Spouses and Dependents
Spouses and dependents of eligible veteran are able to be buried in a national cemetery under the following conditions:
Any surviving spouse of an eligible veteran even if that veteran is not buried in a national cemetery
Any surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who has remarried a non-veteran basing entitlement on the marriage to the deceased eligible veteran
Children of an eligible veteran may be buried in a national cemetery if they meet the following criteria: if the child is a minor child defined as unmarried and under the age of 21 or under the age of 23 and a full-time student at an approved educational institution or any age adult child who has become permanently physically or mentally disabled and is in capable of self-support before the age of 21, or 23 if he or she is a full-time student at an approved education institution. (Documentation of disability must be provided)
Veterans having a less than honorable discharge such as undesirable or bad conduct discharge can have their eligibility status for burial rights evaluated by the VA Regional Office for determination.
Individuals Not Eligible for a National Cemetery Burial:
- Former spouses of veterans who's marriage ended for a reason other than death such as divorce or annulment
- Extended family members other than the surviving spouse and dependent children
- Veterans with a dishonorable discharge
- Those individuals in the National Guard or Reserve whose only service was active-duty for training or inactive-duty training
- Those individuals who reported for a draft but were not inducted into the military
- Those individuals convicted of subversive activity
- Those individuals convicted of a capital crime
Plots in a national cemetery are not able to be reserved or preselected, so if a burial is a national cemetery is something the veteran wants it is recommended that you contact the cemetery before the need arises and make sure you have all necessary paperwork and requirements met ahead of time.
Private Cemetery Burial
If the veteran chooses to be buried in a private cemetery, a government headstone or marker can still be requested for the gravesite.
Regardless of whether burial will take place in a national or private cemetery, application for a headstone or marker can be filled out ahead of time and set aside with other essential paperwork pertaining to the veteran’s burial. The specific form that will need to be submitted is VA Form 40-1330, Application for Standard Government Headstone or Marker for Installation in a Private or State Veterans’ Cemetery. If an application has been submitted for a headstone or marker and it has been more than 30 days and not yet received, you should contact the application assistance office at 1(800)697–6947 to make sure the application was received. If it is found that it had been received and is being processed, check back again 60 days after the date of the veteran’s death. If at that time the headstone or marker has not been installed contact the party responsible for receiving the delivery of the headstone or marker, usually the cemetery or funeral home.
Military honors at the funeral is a benefit available to all eligible veterans at no cost to the family. The following is a list of veterans eligible to receive military funeral honors:
- Military members on active duty or in the Selected Reserve
- Former military members who served on active duty and departed under conditions other than dishonorable
- Former military members who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and departed under conditions other than dishonorable
- Former military members discharged from the Selected Reserve due to a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty
A DD Form 214 or any discharge document stating an other than dishonorable discharge can be used as proof of eligibility. If for any reason you are needing a copy the DD Form 214, one can be acquired by submitting a completed Standard Form 180, which can be obtained from the National Records Center or online at http://www.archives.gov/research/order/standard-form-180.pdf, to the following address:
National Personnel Records Center
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132
Military honors are not the responsibility of the VA but rather the Department of Defense. They include folding and presenting United States burial flag and playing taps. A minimum of two uniformed military person will be members of the funeral honors detail, one of whom will have served in the veteran's service of Armed Forces. Military honors can be requested by the funeral home director. If the veteran is being buried in a VA national cemetery then the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration staff will arrange the military honors. Make sure to inform the funeral director that military honors are desired.
Another benefit to eligible veterans are burial allowances. These are offered in the case of both service-related and non-service related deaths for these eligible veterans. The following is a list of eligibility requirements for burial allowance:
You may be eligible for VA burial allowance if:
- You paid for a veteran’s funeral or burial and
- You have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased veteran’s employer and
- The veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable
Also, at least one of the following conditions must be met:
- The veteran died because of a service-related disability or
- The veteran was receiving a VA compensation or pension at the time of death or
- The veteran was entitled to receive VA compensation or pension, but decided not to reduce his or her military disability or retirement pay or
- The veteran died in a VA hospital or nursing home under VA contract or while in an approved nursing home
To apply for burial allowance, a VA Form 21-530, Application for Burial Benefits, must be submitted along with the deceased veteran’s proof of service, usually a DD Form 214, a copy of the death certificate and copies of all bills associate with the funeral and burial that have been paid. There is no deadline to meet when filing for reimbursement for service-connected deaths, however, files for other deaths must be filed within two years of permanent burial or cremation. Reimbursement is not offered payments made by the deceased veteran’s employer or a state agency.
After a Retired Veteran’s Death
Even though family and friends are going through an emotional time, there are several important steps that must be taken after a retired veteran has died. The first thing that should be done is to notify the Defense Finance and Accounting Service of the veteran’s death. At this point the veteran’s retiree pay account will be closed and the next of kin will be sent a survivor benefits package which will include all necessary paperwork for the beneficiary to fill out in order to recoup the retirees due pay. This papers should be filled out in a timely manner and submitted with a copy of the veteran’s death certificate. There are new Fast Forms available for the next of kin to submit upon the death of a retired veteran. This form is referred to as the Notification of Death Fast Form which, once submitted, will cause the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to stop monthly retirement pay to prevent overpayments which will have to be repaid from occurring. If the next of kin needs help completing the forms they should refer to the included instructions or contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at (800)321-1080 for assistance. Be sure to have the veteran’s Social Security number and date of death available when making the call. Within a week to 12 days after notifying the Defense Finance and Accounting Service of the veteran’s death, the next of kin or designated beneficiary should receive the following documents.
SF1174 Claim for Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Member of the Uniformed Service
If the veteran was enrolled in the Survivor Benefit Plan or the Retired Serviceman’s Family Protection Plan, annuity account forms and instructions will also be included
Once these forms are completed they should be submitted along with a copy of the deceased veteran’s Death Certificate that includes the cause of death to the following address:
DFAS U.S. Military Retired Pay
P.O. Box 7130
London, KY 40742-7130
Fax number: (800)469-6559
Also make sure to notify the Social Security Administration of the retired veteran’s death and cancel upcoming payments as well as return any payments received after the date of death. The local county Veterans Service Office should be notified as well and they will be able to help with any further issues that need to be taken care of as a result of the veteran’s death. Be sure to have the following information available when contacting benefit offices: the veteran’s full name, current address, Social Security number, date of death and the beneficiary’s name and relationship to the deceased. To avoid difficulty, make sure not to use any retired payments received after the veteran’s death. If any payments are received in the form of a direct deposit into a bank account, do not submit repayment because once the Defense Finance and Accounting Service is notified of the veteran’s death they will automatically reclaim direct payments made after the date of death. As well, VA and Social Security payments received after the veteran’s death should not be used as the beneficiary may be required to repay these funds.