by Diane Weinberg

“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
– Abraham Lincoln

In keeping with Morgan & DiSalvo’s emphasis on the importance of planning for your end of life, we wanted to highlight some of the great funeral and burial benefits available to veterans and their families. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers veterans some amazing services to assist with funeral and burial costs for veterans, their spouses and their dependent children. The VA has a long or detailed list of who is eligible to receive each benefit, so please refer to the links provided below to determine whether you qualify for these benefits. In general, these benefits are available, unless the veteran was discharged under dishonorable conditions.

Burial in a national VA cemetery
Eligible veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, dependents and even parents are eligible for a free burial in a national cemetery. Currently, the VA manages 136 national cemeteries, two of which are located in Georgia: the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton and the Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta. The Georgia National Cemetery currently has space for burials and cremation remains. The Marietta National Cemetery only has burial space available to eligible family members in existing gravesites. Currently, the VA is not accepting applications for pre-need determination of eligibility due to a significant backlog. Detailed information about who is and is not eligible is available at www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/eligible.asp.

Burial in a state VA cemetery
If a veteran is eligible to receive a burial in a national cemetery, the veteran, the veteran’s spouse, and dependents are also eligible for internment in a state VA cemetery. Georgia has two such cemeteries funded by the VA’s Veterans Cemetery Grants Program – Georgia’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Milledgeville and Georgia Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Glennville. Located on 142 acres donated by the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Milledgeville Cemetery will ultimately hold internments for up to 100,000 veterans, their spouses and dependents. Located 25 miles west of Fort Stewart, the Glennville cemetery sits on 42.6 acres of the former Dyess Farm. It will eventually be the final resting place for 21,000 veterans, their spouses and dependents. Families may incur some cost for burial in these cemeteries.

Burial flags
The VA, through the National Cemetery Administration, will provide at no cost a United States flag to drape over the casket, or accompany the urn, of a deceased veteran. To qualify, the veteran must have:

  • Been discharged for reasons other than dishonorable; AND
  • Served during a wartime period; or
  • Died on active duty after May 27, 1941; or
  • Served after January 31, 1955; or
  • Been discharged or released after 1950 due to a disability; or
  • Served in the Philippines and died after April 25, 1955; or
  • Been a certain type of member of Selected Reserves. www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/burial_flags.asp

Headstone, Marker
The VA will furnish a headstone, marker or medallion for any deceased veteran in any cemetery around the world regardless of the veteran’s date of death. If the veteran has a privately purchased headstone, the VA will provide a marker for eligible veterans who died after November 1, 1990. A veteran who served as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980, or who served as an officer after October 16, 1980, must have served 24 months of continuous active duty to be eligible. Certain circumstances exist as well where a service member who does not satisfy these requirements and dies on active duty will also be eligible for this benefit. The headstones and markers are only available for spouses and dependents who are buried in a national cemetery, state veterans cemetery, or military post/base cemetery.

Families have options as to what type of memorial they would like. Choices include a flat marker in granite, marble, or bronze. Upright headstones are available in granite and marble. For cremation, bronze niche markers are available to mark columbaria. There is no charge for the headstone or marker, but the family is responsible for paying for placing it in a private cemetery. www.cem.va.gov/cem/hmm/index.asp

Bronze and Medal of Honor Medallion
Medallions may be affixed to privately purchased headstone markers to signify that the deceased is also a veteran and a Medal of Honor recipient. A veteran who served in the Armed Forces after April 6, 1917, or any member of the Armed Forces who dies during active duty and is buried in a private cemetery in a grave with a privately purchased grave may be eligible for a Bronze and Medal of Honor Medallion.

Presidential Memorial Certificate
This engraved paper certificate signed by the current president is available to honor any veteran eligible for burial in a national cemetery: www.cem.va.gov/pmc.asp.

Military Funeral Honors
Provided as a service of the Department of Defense, every eligible veteran is entitled to an honor ceremony, including the folding and presenting of the United States burial flag and playing of Taps. To be eligible, the veteran must have died while on active duty or in the Select Reserve; served on active duty or in the Select Reserve and discharged under other than dishonorable conditions; or completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Select Reserve. Contact the funeral home to arrange for this military honor. Learn more at: https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/military_funeral_honors.asp and https://mfh.dmdc.osd.mil/mfh/

Reimbursement for Funeral Expenses
Yes, you read that correctly! The VA also reimburses certain veterans’ families for funeral expenses at an amount set by statute. To qualify for the benefit:

  • You must have paid for the veteran’s funeral or burial;
  • You must not have been reimbursed by the government or another third-party;
  • The veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable AND
    • Died of a service-related disability; or
    • Was receiving a VA pension or compensation at the time of his or her death or was eligible to receive pension or compensation but did not do so to avoid reduction of military retirement or disability pay; or
    • Died while hospitalized by the VA or receiving care in a facility under contract with the VA; or
    • Died while traveling under VA authorization and expense to or from a place to receive an examination, treatment or care; or
    • Had an open or reopened claim pending at the time of death and was found to be entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to his or her death; or
    • Died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient in a VA-approved state nursing home.

For deaths occurring on or after September 11, 2001, the VA will pay up to $2,000 for reimbursement of burial expenses for a veteran who suffered a service-related death. If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, transportation costs may also be reimbursed in whole or part.

For non-service related deaths occurring on or after October 1, 2018, the VA will reimburse up to:

  • $780 of burial and funeral expenses if the veteran is hospitalized by the VA at the time of death
  • $300 if the veteran is not hospitalized by the VA at the time of death
  • $780 for a plot internment allowance if a veteran is not buried in a national cemetery

Learn more: www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special-burial.asp

For more information about funeral and internment benefits, an end-of-life planner, and a set of sample forms to apply for these benefits, please check out the Planning Your Legacy: VA Survivors and Burial Benefits Kit at
www.cem.va.gov/cem/docs/factsheets/Planning_Legacy_Booklet.pdf

Morgan & DiSalvo thanks the individuals who have served and currently serve in our armed forces, as well as the families who support them during their service. If you’re a veteran, we hope you will take advantage of these incredible benefits available to you and your family in recognition of your service and your sacrifice for our country.

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