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Veterans’ Benefits Part II: Burial Allowances and Memorial Items

October 25, 2021

By Raymond M. Roberts, Esquire

Veterans honorably discharged from active duty and service members who die while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive active duty, may be eligible for Veterans Administration (“VA”) burial and memorial benefits.  In addition, spouses and dependent children of veterans and active duty service members may also be eligible for VA burial and memorial benefits.  In Part I of this Series, we discussed Veteran Burial Benefits, including burial in a National Cemetery and burial in private cemeteries.  Eligible veterans are also eligible for burial allowances through the VA, as well as certain memorial items, such as headstones, grave markers, and medallions.  Other memorial items, such as burial flags and Presidential Memorial Certificates are also available to families of deceased veterans.

VA Burial Allowances

VA burial allowances are partial reimbursements of an eligible veteran’s burial and funeral costs.  When the cause of death is not service related, the reimbursements are generally described as two payments:  (1) a burial and funeral expense allowance, and (2) a plot or interment allowance.

Who Is Eligible?

You may be eligible for a VA burial allowance if:

  • you paid for a veteran’s burial or funeral, 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.

In addition, at least one of the following conditions must be met:

  • the veteran died because of a service-related disability, OR
  • the veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR
  • the veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay, OR
  • the veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR
  • the veteran died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care, OR
  • the veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date or death, OR
  • the veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

How Much Does VA Pay?

Service-Related Death.  The VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses for deaths on or after September 11, 2001.  The VA will pay up to $1,500 for deaths prior to September 10, 2001.  If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased may be reimbursed.

Nonservice-Related Death.  The VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance for deaths on or after December 1, 2001.  The plot-interment allowance is $150 for deaths prior to December 1, 2001.  If the death happened while the veteran was in a VA hospital or under VA contracted nursing home care, some or all of the costs for transporting the veteran’s remains may be reimbursed.

Burial Allowance: The VA will pay a $700 burial and funeral allowance for eligible veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled if they were not receiving military retirement pay. Eligibility also may be established when 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: The VA will pay a $700 plot allowance 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; or 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 $700 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.

Military Funeral Honors

Upon request made to the Department of Defense (“DoD”) on behalf of an eligible veteran, the DoD will provide military funeral honors at the veteran’s funeral.  These military honors consist of folding and presentation of the United States burial flag and the playing of “Taps.” A funeral honors detail consists of two or more uniformed members of the armed forces, with at least one member from the deceased’s branch of service.

If you want to have military funeral honors at your loved one’s funeral, you should inform your funeral director. The DoD maintains a toll-free number (1-877-MIL-HONR) for use by funeral directors only to request honors. The VA can help arrange honors for burials at VA national cemeteries.  Veteran service organizations or volunteer groups may help provide honors. More detailed information is available on the VA’s website at www.cem.va.gov/military_funeral_honors.asp.

More information on VA death benefits can be found at the Veterans Administration web site at http://www.va.gov.

Veterans are eligible for certain honors in recognition of their service. In some instances, next of kin are also eligible. Below is outlines some of the memorial items available.

Burial Flags to Honor Veterans

The VA will provide to families a United States flag to drape on a casket or place with an urn in honor of the military service of a veteran or reservist.  You may be eligible for a burial flag if you’re the next of kin or a close friend of the deceased veteran or reservist and the deceased meets one of the following requirements:

  • The veteran served in wartime; or
  • The veteran died while serving on active duty after May 27, 1941; or
  • The veteran served after January 31, 1955; or
  • The veteran served in peacetime and left military service before June 27, 1950 after serving at least one enlistment, or because of a disability that was caused (or made worse) by their active military service; or
  • Served in Selected Reserves (in certain cases), or served in the military forces of the Philippines while in service of the United States and died on or after April 25, 1951.[i]

To get a burial flag, you will need to complete an Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes (VA Form 27-2008).  If you would like a copy of the form, it can be found on the VA’s website at https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-27-2008-ARE.pdf .  The completed form can be submitted through your funeral director, at a VA Regional Office, or at a United States Post Office.  Many post office branches maintain an inventory of flags. You should call ahead to confirm that they have flags available or, if not, to be directed to a branch that does.

Other Memorial Items

In addition to burial flags, families of deceased veterans or other eligible family members, can apply for Veterans’ headstones, markers and medallions or a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Headstones, Markers and Medallions.   As mentioned above, you should contact your cemetery prior to submitting an application for a headstone or marker to determine whether they are permitted in your chosen cemetery.  There are three types available: an upright headstone, a flat type bronze or granite/marble marker and a bronze niche marker.

Headstones are upright marble or granite stones measuring 42 inches high, 13 inches wide and 4 inches thick.  (These are the types of markers that one would find in National Cemeteries, such as Arlington.)

Grave Markers are flat type markers, and are available in bronze or granite.  Both are rectangular in shape and 24 inches wide and 12 inches long. The bronze marker has a ¾ inch rise and comes with anchor bolts, nuts and washers for fastening the marker to a base.  The VA does not furnish a base for bronze markers.  The marble or granite grave marker is rectangular in shape and 24 inches wide, 12 inches long and 4 inches thick.

Bronze Niche Markers are 8-1/2 inches long and 5-1/2 inches wide with a 7/16 inch rise.  The Niche Markers come with mounting bolts and washers.

Medallions are bronze devices which are affixed to privately purchased headstones or markers.  Some private cemeteries restrict the type of grave markers allowed.  In some cases, cemeteries allow only a single marker for both husband and wife.  It is for these cases that the VA also offers a bronze medallion.[1]  The medallion is furnished in lieu of a traditional headstone or marker (this benefit is only applicable if the grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker; in these instances, eligible veterans are entitled to either a traditional Government-furnished headstone or marker, or the medallion, but not both).  The medallion is available in three sizes, Large (6-3/8″W x 4-3/4″H x 1/2″D), Medium (3-3/4″W x 2-7/8″H x 1/4″D) and Small (2″W x 1-1/2″H x 1/3″D). Each medallion is inscribed with the word “VETERAN” across the top and the branch of service at the bottom.  There is also a “Medal of Honor” medallion available for recipients of that honor.  Once a claim for a medallion is received and approved, VA will mail the medallion along with a kit that will allow the family or the staff of a private cemetery to affix the device to a headstone, grave marker, mausoleum or columbarium niche cover.

Presidential Memorial Certificates are engraved, paper certificates signed by the current sitting President of the United States, to honor the memory of deceased veterans who are eligible for burial in a national cemetery.  An eligible recipient (i.e., next of kin, a relative or friend upon request, or an authorized service representative acting on behalf of such relative or friend) may apply for a Presidential Memorial Certificate by completing a VA Form 40-0247, Presidential Memorial Certificate Request Form[2]. More than one Presidential Memorial Certificate may be requested. To expedite the processing of the claim, the applicant should also submit photocopies of the Veteran’s military discharge documents and death certificate. Do not send the original documents, as they will not be returned.

[1]https://www.cem.va.gov/docs/factsheets/Bronze_and_Medal_of_Honor_Medallion_Benefit.pdf

[2] This Form can be found on the VA Website at https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-0247.pdf

[i] For more information on either of these situations, contact the Veterans Administration at 800-827-1000, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET.

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