The men and women who served our country through military service have access to benefits throughout their life. Benefits such as VA Aid and Attendance help support them when they need care and various programs support veterans and their families throughout their lifetime. Additionally, honorably discharged veterans have burial benefits that help pay veteran funeral costs and pre-need planning helps ensure they receive a service fit for a hero.
Pre-planning gives you the opportunity to understand what benefits are available and what the VA pays toward the funeral. Partnering with a funeral home that is familiar with veterans' funerals will help make a difficult time a little easier. You will appreciate the extra guidance to understand what is included, who qualifies, and how to request burial benefits.
Pro-tip: If you aren’t ready for pre-planning, but want to ensure acceptance by the VA to a veteran cemetery, pre-register with this form.
Who Pays for a Veterans Funeral?
The government does not pay for all funeral expenses. In fact, in many cases, veterans are eligible for allowances if they are paying for the burial and funeral costs without help from any other organization. You can expect some death benefits for honorably discharged veterans, but these allowances fall short of the total cost. Pre-planning with a funeral home will help the veteran and their family understand how much the funeral will cost prior to the need.
Can I Be Buried in a VA National Cemetery?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs encourages veterans to determine if they are eligible to be buried in a VA cemetery before their time of need. A pre-need burial eligibility determination application can be submitted with the veteran’s personal information and DD214. You can also choose the VA national cemetery where you prefer to be buried, but there is no guarantee of burial in a specific cemetery.
Veterans Burial Benefits
Gravesite at a national cemetery (based on availability)
Headstone, marker, or medallion
Military funeral honors
Presidential Memorial Certificate
What About Military Funeral Honors?
Military funeral honors are available to eligible members of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard. As part of pre-need planning for a veteran’s service, you can find out if your veteran is eligible for funeral honors. This will give you time to apply in advance. These traditions are meaningful additions to the service and take a little time to arrange.
The Department of Defense outlines those who are eligible including:
- Military members who died while on active duty or in the Selected reserve
- Former military members who served on active duty or in the Selected Reserve and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions
- Former military members who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions
Military funerals are emotional and moving. This is in no small part due to the long-standing traditions included within the service that honor the veteran. Watching uniformed service members fold a flag in unity, with precision, before presenting it to the family. A bugler playing Taps. For military families, these are the moments that take their breath away and warm their hearts with pride.
Military Funeral Honors
Uniformed service members who present the burial flag
Taps played by a live bugler or recording
A rifle detail
A color guard
What Can I Expect at a Military Committal Service?
Military services at a VA National Cemetery are carried out with dignity and respect. Though viewing and graveside services are not available at national cemeteries, the national cemetery staff will coordinate a committal service that lasts about 20 minutes. These private services take place in a committal shelter. Don’t worry - you will have a gravesite to visit, it is just likely not the same day as the ceremony. Whether you choose cremation or a casket, all are buried or inurned with the same honors.
From the initial welcome at the entrance to the cemetery to the committal shelter and through the service, the VA national cemetery staff works in coordination with your choice of funeral home to ensure a seamless remembrance of your loved one. You can include readings by friends and family, or a short service performed by clergy. Military funeral honors that have been requested in advance will be performed and you can bring flowers to accompany the casket or urn to the gravesite.
Be prepared. Depending on their schedule for the day, there is not a lot of time between committal services. The cemetery staff will be firm but polite as they usher you efficiently and respectfully through your committal service and then back to the reception center at the entrance of the cemetery. The staff works diligently to give all veterans and their families the best possible experience.
Can a Veteran’s Spouse be Buried in a Veteran’s Cemetery?
A veteran’s spouse and dependents may qualify to be buried in a VA national cemetery or state veterans’ cemetery with space available. This benefit includes the gravesite for a non-veteran spouse, an inscription on the headstone, and perpetual care. Spouses and dependent children who pre-decease the veteran are still eligible for benefits. Additionally, they do not have to be buried in the same national cemetery as the veteran. These details can be discussed and decided during pre-need planning.
What Happens if I Do Not Pre-Plan for a Veteran’s Funeral?
A person who has served their country faithfully deserves to rest in peace. Pre-planning gives peace of mind to the veteran’s family. It also allows the veteran to see how they will be honored in death. When you wait until the time of need, your access to eligible benefits may be limited.
Veterans are a distinguished group who deserve all the benefits to which they are entitled. For a VA-accredited Elder Law Attorney, there are few things harder than hearing a veteran’s family say that they didn’t know what to expect and didn’t plan properly. While you can spend a lifetime remembering your loved one, they have only one funeral – and you want to get it right.
Expert knowledge and experience to guide veterans and their families through the process of obtaining benefits are just a couple of the reasons Elder Law Attorneys are one of the Resources We Love. Read more about veterans’ benefits and how these specialists can be invaluable members of your Circle of Concern in the Legal and Financial Section of our Blog.