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Veterans Overview


Many veterans and their families are misinformed about the burial benefits they can expect to receive at the time of death. Some veterans assume that Veterans Affairs (VA) will pay for all funeral and burial costs, while others assume that all of their cemetery costs will be covered. In fact, neither assumption is completely correct. While VA does offer many very helpful burial benefits to honorably discharged veterans and their dependents, this organization does not cover all funeral expenses.

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to veterans’ burial benefits:

Discharge papers are crucial

First and foremost, if your family cannot locate your discharge papers, they will not be able to file for any benefits.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs urges veterans to advise their families of their burial wishes and where to find their discharge papers. On their website, VA states:

You should advise your family of your wishes and where your discharge papers are kept. These papers are very important in establishing your eligibility.site image

At the time of need your family would contact a funeral home who will assist them with making burial arrangements at the national cemetery. You may wish to make pre-need arrangements with a funeral home.

This is because a funeral plan will help you get organized and put all your important documents in one place so that your family can actually claim the benefits that they are entitled to.

Payments are now issued automatically

Rather than being reimbursed for actual expenses, VA has recently made the process of payment of benefits much simpler. According to the VA’s burial benefits website, effective July 7, 2014, VA is authorized to pay most eligible surviving spouses basic monetary burial benefits at the maximum amount through automated systems rather than reimbursing them for actual costs incurred.

Although automated payments will help to speed the process of receiving benefits, certain eligibility requirements must be met. Please note that VA is not responsible for making funeral arrangements or performing cremations. These arrangements should be made with a funeral or cremation provider. Furthermore, any items or services purchased from a funeral home of cremation facility are at the family’s expense. The average cost of funeral goods and merchandise without burial costs comes to just over $6,000 according to the latest statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association. Families should be aware that VA’s $2,000 burial allowance will certainly help, but that the family will likely incur costs for funeral expenses that will not be covered or reimbursed by the VA, even when the death is service-related.

Your cash allowance for burial depends on how the veteran died

Members of the armed forces who die in service to their country receive the most generous burial allowance. For service-connected death, the VA Burial and Memorial Benefits factsheet states: “If the Veteran died on or after September 11, 2001, the maximum service-connected burial allowance is $2,000. If the Veteran died before September 11, 2001, the maximum service-connected burial allowance is $1,500. If the Veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, VA may reimburse some or all of the costs of transporting the deceased Veteran’s remains.”

According to the VA’s Burial and Memorial Benefits factsheet, for a non service-connected death:

  • If the Veteran died on or after October 1, 2016, VA will pay a $300 burial allowance and $749 for a plot (if not buried in a national cemetery).
  • If the Veteran died on or after October 1, 2015, but before October 1, 2016, VA will pay $300 for burial allowance and $747 for a plot.
  • If the Veteran died on or after October 1, 2014, but before October 1, 2015, VA will pay $300 burial allowance and $745 for a plot.

Effective October 1, 2011, there are higher non-service-connected death rates payable if the Veteran was hospitalized by VA at the time of his or her death.

An honorably discharged veteran is eligible to be buried in one of 131 national cemeteries (as space allows) at no cost to the family. A headstone or marker is also provided by the government, as well as a U.S. flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and military honors. Spouses and dependents may also be buried in a national cemetery along with the veteran or even before if they predecease the veteran.

If a private cemetery is used, burial benefits remain the same, other than the burial space: the headstone or marker, a U.S. flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and military honors are provided at no cost to the family. The burial space in a private cemetery is at the family’s expense. Certain costs may also apply to setting the headstone or marker in place. No benefits are available to spouses or dependents buried in a private cemetery.

Please note that eligibility for benefits must be established on an individual basis and certain requirements or qualifications may apply.

Many veterans and their families don’t realize that they are responsible for funeral expenses that are not covered by the VA, including a casket or urn, services of the funeral director, embalming, cremation, flowers, obituaries, police escort, and more. The VA makes it clear that these and other services provided by the funeral home or crematory are not covered by the government, other than the burial allowance for certain qualifying individuals referred to above.

While veterans’ benefits can be a complicated issue to understand, especially during a time of grief, you can usually find a funeral home in your area that is very knowledgeable about veterans burial benefits, military honors, and the claim process. You can also select a knowledgeable funeral home in advance and make pre-arranged funeral plans to further assist your family if you are a veteran.

Where you want to be buried matters

An honorably discharged veteran is eligible to be buried in one of 131 national cemeteries (as space allows) at no cost to the family. A headstone or marker is also provided by the government, as well as a U.S. flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and military honors. Spouses and dependents may also be buried in a national cemetery along with the veteran or even before if they predecease the veteran.

If a private cemetery is used, burial benefits remain the same, other than the burial space: the headstone or marker, a U.S. flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and military honors are provided at no cost to the family. The burial space in a private cemetery is at the family’s expense. Certain costs may also apply to setting the headstone or marker in place. No benefits are available to spouses or dependents buried in a private cemetery.

Please note that eligibility for benefits must be established on an individual basis and certain requirements or qualifications may apply.

Many veterans and their families don’t realize that they are responsible for funeral expenses that are not covered by the VA, including a casket or urn, services of the funeral director, embalming, cremation, flowers, obituaries, police escort, and more. The VA makes it clear that these and other services provided by the funeral home or crematory are not covered by the government, other than the burial allowance for certain qualifying individuals referred to above.

While veterans’ benefits can be a complicated issue to understand, especially during a time of grief, you can usually find a funeral home in your area that is very knowledgeable about veterans burial benefits, military honors, and the claim process. You can also select a knowledgeable funeral home in advance and make pre-arranged funeral plans to further assist your family if you are a veteran.


The basic Military Funeral Honors (MFH) ceremony consists of the folding and presentation of the United States flag to the veterans' family and the playing of Taps. The ceremony is performed by a funeral honors detail consisting of at least two members of the Armed Forces.

The Funeral Honors rendered to you or your veteran will be determined by the status of the veteran.  The type of Funeral Honors may be Full Military Honors, 7 Person Detail or a Standard Honors Team Detail.

At least one of the funeral honors detail will be from the Armed Force in which the deceased veteran served.  Taps may be played by a bugler or, if a bugler is not available, by using a quality recorded version. Military Funeral Honor Teams may act as Pall Bearers if requested by the veteran/family.

Who is eligible for 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.

Who is not eligible for Military Funeral Honors?

  • Any person separated from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions or whose character of service results in a bar to veteran's benefits. 
  • Any person who was ordered to report to an induction station, but was not actually inducted into military service. 
  • Any person discharged from the Selected Reserve prior to completing one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service for reasons other than a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
  • Any person convicted of a Federal or State capital crime sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

How do I establish veteran eligibility?

The preferred method is the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.  If the DD Form 214 is not available, any discharge document showing other than dishonorable service can be used.  The DD Form 214 may be obtained by filling out a Standard Form 180 and sending it to:

National Personnel Records Center(NPRC)
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132

The Standard Form 180 may be obtained from the National Records Center or via the following web site: http://www.archives.gov/research/order/standard-form-180.pdf

Is anyone else eligible to receive funeral honors?

Yes. Members of the Commissioned Officer Corps of the Public Health Service (PHS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as members of a Uniformed Service, are also eligible to receive funeral honors.

For NOAA personnel, eligibility is established using NOAA Form 56-16, Report of Transfer or Discharge. If the family does not have a copy of the NOAA Form 56-16, it may by obtained by contacting the Chief, Officer Services Division, NOAA Commissioned Personnel Center at (301) 713-7715. or by writing:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
Commissioned Personnel Center 
Chief, Officer Services Division (CPC1) 
1315 East-West Highway, Room 12100 
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

For PHS personnel, funeral honors eligibility is established using PHS Form 1867, Statement of Service (equivalent to the DD Form 214).  If the family does not have a copy of the Statement of Service, it may be obtained by contacting the Privacy Coordinator for the Commissioned Corps at (240) 453-6041 or writing:

Division of Commissioned Personnel/HRS/PSC 
Attention: Privacy Act Coordinator 
5600 Fishers Lane 
4-36 
Rockville, Maryland 20857

 


In this section

Veterans Overview

Veterans Headstones

Veterans Burial Flags

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