Veterans Death and Funeral Benefits
Also called Veterans Survivor's Benefits, these funds are paid directly to the family from the federal government. How much each family receives depends on the individual and how he or she died.
When planning a funeral for a military veteran, evaluate qualification for special veterans death and funeral benefits. Benefits are available to:
- Veterans who were discharged or separated from active duty under honorable conditions, and who have completed the required period of service
- U.S. Armed Forces members who die during active duty
- Spouses and dependent children of eligible living and deceased veterans, and of current and deceased armed forces members, may also be eligible.
Documents needed to file for Veterans Death Benefits
Before you can file for Veterans Death Benefits, you will need:
- Certified copy or original of DD214 (Enlisted Record of Separation)
- Certified copy or original Marriage Certificate
- Certified copy of Death Certificate
- Verification of amount of life insurance you will receive as a result of veteran's death
- Paid receipts for funeral and cemetery expenses
- Paid receipts for hospital and doctor bills incurred by last illness, if applicable
- Social Security number for yourself and your dependent children
- Certified copy or original Divorce Decree, as relevant
- For dependent children: For children under the age of 18, or over 18 and still in school, Certified copies of original Birth Certificates for each child. If the dependent children are over 18 and still in school, complete VA Form 21-674.
- For those receiving Social Security benefits, the exact amount received.
- For those with a VA claim number, the claim number.
- The source and exact amount of any additional income benefit to report to the VA
Veteran's Burial Benefits
Several types of burial benefits and allowances are given to deceased, honorably discharged veterans and their families:
Burial Grave in a National Cemetery
Veterans can be buried in a national cemetery such as Arlington National Cemetery for free. This service includes the plot, a burial flag, opening and closing of the grave, care of site, government headstone and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. Many national cemeteries have columbaria niches for the inurnment of cremated remains, or special sections for burial of cremated remains.Similar care and cost is available for the individual's spouses and dependents.
Veterans may also be buried in a private cemetery and may be eligible to receive certain allowances and reimbursements, but will not have their entire burial paid for by the VA. Spouses and dependents are not covered as well if burial takes place in a private cemetery.
There is a $2,000 reimbursement if the veteran died during active duty or from a service-related injury
Headstones and Markers for Veterans
Headstones and markers for the graves of veterans and eligible dependents are available anywhere in the world for graves that are not already marked. The marker is consistent with the styles permitted by the cemetery or memorial garden and include flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble, and upright marble types. Bronze niche markers are also available to mark columbaria in national cemeteries.
Veteran Burial at Sea
Burial at sea is a common practice, especially for service members who dedicated their life to the Navy. Burial at sea services are performed while a vessel is on official maneuvers; therefore, it is not possible for the family to be present for a burial at sea. The family is notified by the commanding officer of that vessel of the date, time, longitude, and latitude of the committal service. Individuals eligible for this program are members of the uniformed services, veterans discharged under honorable conditions, United States civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command, and dependents of members, retirees, and veterans of the uniformed services.
Burials at Sea embark from one of seven ports that include:
- Naval Medical Center
620 John Paul Jones Circle
Portsmouth, Virginia 23708-5100
- Newport, Rhode Island Naval Hospital
Newport, Rhode Island 02841-5003
- Naval Hospital Branch Clinic
Mayport, Florida 32228
- Long Beach, California Naval Hospital
Long Beach, California 90822-5199
- San Diego, California Naval Hospital
San Diego, California 92134-5000
- San Francisco, California Naval Hospital
Oakland, California 94627-5000
- Bremerton, Washington Naval Hospital
Bremerton, Washington 98312-5008
Presidential Memorial Certificate for Veteran's Service
The Presidential Memorial Certificate is a parchment document with a calligraphic inscription expressing the nation's grateful recognition of the veteran's service. The veteran's name is inscribed, and the certificate bears the signature of the President and the presidential seal in gold foil.
Reimbursement of Veteran's Burial Expenses
The United States Government provides a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance for veterans who, at the 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 is also established when death occurs in a Veterans’ Administration facility or a nursing home which the Veterans’ Administration contracted, and additional costs of transportation of the remains may be reimbursed in those cases. Claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation.
United States Burial Flag
The United States Government provides an American flag to drape the casket of a veteran who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. After the funeral service, the flag may be given to the next of kin, or a close associate of the deceased.
Veterans Affairs Death Pension
This is a needs-based benefit paid to the individual's surviving spouse and children. Requirements include:
- Surviving spouse must not have remarried
- Dependent children must be unmarried
- The veteran must have received an honorable discharge
- The deceased veteran must have served 90 days of active duty with one day being during a period of war time
- If the individual enlisted after September 7, 1980, he or she must have served at least two years of his or her required active duty order (there are exceptions to this requirement).
- The survivor's countable income is below the yearly limit set by Congress.
Information is available by calling the Department of Veterans Affairs at 800- 827-1000, or contacting them through their website, http://www.va.gov/
If you qualify for Social Security benefits, contact the Social Security office prior to the Veteran's Administration office.
The VA offers many more programs for veterans and their families. Each branch of the military may also have different information specific to your needs. For example, the VA does not cover burial at sea, but the U.S. Navy Mortuary Affairs office does provide specifics about that.