Veterans have made important sacrifices for our country, and they deserve to be honored and remembered for their service. As a veteran, you and your loved one may qualify for burial benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, there are many misconceptions about these benefits, so it’s important to understand what they include, who qualifies and how to request them.
Myth: The VA pays for the funeral or cremation expenses of any honorably discharged veteran.
This common misconception simply is not true. Only under certain circumstances, such as when a serviceman or servicewoman is killed in the line of duty, does the U.S. government cover all funeral or cremation costs. There are other cases when certain monetary, recognition and service benefits may be available. They include:
- when a veteran die because of a service-related disability.
- when a veteran was receiving or was entitled to receive a VA pension or compensation at the time of death.
- when a veteran die while receiving care at a VA hospital or a facility under contract with the VA to provide care.
Some benefits do apply to all honorably discharged veterans, and some veterans may be eligible for allowances that will help with funeral and burial costs. However, even under the most generous circumstances, the allowances fall far short of the actual costs of a funeral or cremation, and the family needs to make up the difference. This is why planning and funding final arrangements ahead of time can be very beneficial.
Myth: All a veteran’s family has to do is let the VA know that their loved one has passed, and whatever benefits that person is eligible for are automatic.
If only it were that easy. In most cases, the VA will need to see discharge papers (a report called DD 214) to determine eligibility. A lot of times, families don’t have these papers or don’t know where they are. In that case, a Dignity Memorial® provider can help secure them.
Additionally, a family must request all of the benefits for which their loved one is eligible. (The Dignity Memorial Veterans Planning Guide includes those request forms.)
Claims for allowances for a death not related to service must be filed within two years of the veteran’s funeral or cremation. There’s no time limit to file for a service-connected funeral, cremation or burial allowance.
Truth: An honorably discharged military veteran who has passed is entitled to space in a veterans cemetery.
Burial benefits include a gravesite in one of the 138 national VA cemeteries or any state veterans cemetery with space available for veterans and their spouses. Benefits for a veteran who chooses to be buried in one of those cemeteries also include a burial liner, grave opening and closing costs, a grave marker or headstone, and perpetual care. These benefits apply to both casket burial and cremation memorialization.
Don’t live close to a VA cemetery? A veteran can be transferred to any national cemetery with space at the family’s expense. Some state VA cemeteries, however, require the veteran to have been a resident of that state at the time of death or have other rules around eligibility. State veterans cemeteries are run solely by the states, and you’ll need to contact the cemetery directly for information.
Check the National Cemetery Administration burial benefits page to determine eligibility requirements for national and private cemetery burial funding. Your Dignity Memorial provider can help you select either a VA national cemetery, a state veterans cemetery, or a private cemetery anywhere in the United States and plan a fitting tribute.
Myth: An honorably discharged military veteran who has passed gets a free casket or urn
This isn’t true. Only a serviceman or servicewoman who dies on active duty receives a casket or urn as part of death benefits. In all other cases, a family must purchase a casket or urn.
Truth: An honorably discharged military veteran who has passed is entitled to a free headstone, marker or medallion.
Regardless of where a veteran is buried in the world—in a national VA cemetery, state veterans cemetery or private cemetery—they can request a government headstone, marker or medallion. Upright headstones are available in granite or marble, and flat markers are available in granite, marble or bronze.
Bronze medallions for placement on existing privately purchased headstones or markers come in several sizes. The veteran’s family must pay any costs associated with affixing the medallion to the privately purchased headstone or marker. Niche markers for cremation memorials are also available.
Truth: An honorably discharged veteran who has passed is entitled to a United States flag for his or her funeral.
A new U.S. flag is provided at no cost by the Department of Veterans Affairs to each veteran’s family. It is generally presented to the next of kin or a designated friend or family member during the military funeral honors ceremony by an active-duty member of the veteran’s branch of service. Dignity Memorial can provide a special case for a veteran’s government-issued flag or a memento box that will be cherished for generations to come.
Truth: An honorably discharged veteran who has passed can receive military funeral honors.
Servicemen and servicewomen who die on active duty, military retirees, members and former members of the Selected Reserve, and eligible U.S. veterans who were separated under any condition other than dishonorable are eligible for a military funeral honors ceremony. These honors must be requested by a funeral director on behalf of the family and include:
- folding and presenting the U.S. flag by an honor guard of two or more uniformed military members (at least one will be from the branch of service of the deceased veteran).
- Taps played by a live bugler or recording.
For more about military funeral honors, the U.S. Department of Defense can help. Your Dignity Memorial provider can assist with requesting military funeral honors.
Truth: The families of all honorably discharged veterans who have passed may request Presidential Memorial Certificates.
The engraved paper certificate, signed by the current U.S. president, honors the memory of honorably discharged veterans after their deaths. Eligible recipients, including the veteran’s next of kin and loved ones, can request the certificate in person at any VA regional office or by U.S. mail. Your Dignity Memorial provider can assist your family in obtaining this certificate.
Truth: The families of all veterans who have passed may request replacement of service medals, awards and decorations.
Service recognition awards are often lost or misplaced. The veteran or a family member may request a replacement for a living veteran if they have the veteran’s signed authorization. The next of kin of a deceased veteran can request replacements in writing using Standard Form 180 (SF 180). There is usually no charge for medal or award replacements.
For more information or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-866-272-6272 or go to the National Personnel Records Center website. If your family needs SF 180, a Dignity Memorial provider can get one for you.
Myth: VA burial benefits extend to all military spouses and veterans’ dependents.
Spouses and minor dependents may qualify to be buried in a national VA cemetery or state veterans cemetery at no charge, even if they pass away before their veterans. There are no monetary burial benefits or military honors available to spouses or children.
Truth: Dignity Memorial providers are experts at helping families secure military death benefits.
We are the exclusive provider of funerals and cremations for members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and certain State Departments of the American Legion. What’s more, many years of planning funerals for thousands of veterans from all branches of service have given us experience in planning every detail of a veteran’s funeral and ensuring they receive the respect and honor they have earned.
Contact us today to find out more about the special savings and benefits available to Houston Police Officers’ Union members and their families. The benefits are available through dozens of providers in the Greater Houston area. To find a location and learn more, visit DignityMemorial.com/hpou or call 844-502-5901.