Veterans’ benefits are available to U.S. Armed Forces members who die on active duty. They are also available to those who were separated from active duty and completed the required period of service. Excluded are those who were dishonorably discharged or found guilty of a capital crime or subversive activities.
Eligibility extends to members of Reserve Components, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Commissioned Officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Commissioned Officers of the Public Health Service, and World War II Merchant Mariners. Spouses and dependent children of eligible living and deceased veterans and armed forces members may also be eligible.
Veterans’ benefits apply to both casketed remains and cremated remains, including:
- Free burial grave in a national cemetery
- Opening and closing of the grave and perpetual care
- Free headstones and markers
- Burial flag
- Free grave liner for casketed remains
- Presidential Memorial Certificate
- Lump sum payment up to $300 to families of eligible retiree veterans and up to $1,500 for veterans who die of service-related disability
Across the country, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ maintains 119 national cemeteries (with 6 more legally mandated) and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites. Many states have established veterans’ cemeteries with eligibility requirements similar to national cemeteries. Requests for burial are usually submitted by the funeral director handling the funeral arrangements.
The following information should be provided to the veteran’s cemetery.
- Full name and military rank
- Branch of service
- Social security number
- Service number
- VA claim number, if applicable
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of death
- Date of retirement or last separation from active duty
- Copy of military separation documents
Some private cemeteries offer free gravesites for veterans. Be aware that restrictions may apply and there may be requirements to purchase an additional gravesite or a grave marker. The VA will provide a free headstone or marker for private cemetery burials, however, this benefit is limited to only eligible veterans and not to their spouses and children.
Under a Department of Defense program, funeral directors can request military funeral honors on behalf of veterans’ families. Veterans’ organizations oftentimes assist in providing military funeral honors.
For information on burial at sea, contact the United States Navy Mortuary Affairs office toll-free at 1-888-647-6676, and select option 4.
For additional information about veterans’ benefits, call the Veterans’ Affairs office at 800-827-1000 or log on to their website at www.va.gov.