For many veterans, special accommodations are made for a funeral service and burial, often including ceremonial honors. Making funeral arrangements for a veteran can add an extra layer of complexity to planning, so it can be especially helpful to work with an experienced funeral director who has planned services for other fallen service members.
If you are tasked with making end-of-life arrangements for a veteran, be sure to know the answers to these four important questions before beginning the planning process with a funeral director.
Who Qualifies for Military Funeral/Burial Honors?
According to Veterans Anonymous, veterans who qualify for funeral honors must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- The veteran was president or a former president of the United States, based on their service as commander in chief.
- The veteran died while on active duty, including active duty for training for members of the Reserves and National Guard.
- The veteran had active-duty service on or before September 7, 1980, as an enlisted member and on or before October 16, 1981, as an officer. Additionally, they had a discharge characterization the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doesn’t regard as dishonorable.
- The veteran’s service started after September 7, 1980, as an enlisted member or after October 16, 1981, as an officer, with at least 24 months of ongoing, active-duty service. Additionally, the veteran must have a discharge characterization that is not considered dishonorable.
- The veteran was a member of the National Guard or Reserves who was called to active duty for less than 24 months and served during the full length of the time they were called upon for. The veteran must additionally have a discharge characterization considered not dishonorable by the VA.
- The veteran was a Reserve or National Guard member under the age of 60 who was, or would have been, entitled to retired payment, at the time of death.
- The veteran was Reservist who died as result of an injury or illness incurred or exacerbated by their time in the military.
What Benefits Are Available?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will cover certain funeral expenses for eligible veterans. However, the monetary benefits veterans can receive vary depending on the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Plot interment and burial/cremation and funeral allowance amounts are dependent on the date of death and whether or not the veteran was under VA hospital care at the time of death.
The VA will provide a $300 burial allowance to the families of veterans who had a non-service-connected death and $2,000 for deaths connected to military service.
Eligible veterans are also required by law to receive certain military funeral honors free of charge. At minimum, these honors include the presenting of the American flag to the next of kin, the playing of Taps, and at least two members of the armed forces in the honor guard vigil.
How Do You Obtain Benefits for A Loved One?
To apply for benefits, the deceased veteran’s next of kin can submit a paper application and mail to the Pension Management Center, go to their local regional benefit office and turn in an application for processing, work with an accredited representative or apply online.
How Do You Apply for Burial in a Veteran Cemetery?
Another aspect of the planning process that needs to be considered when making arrangements for a veteran’s funeral is the burial. If you’d like your loved one to be buried in a national or state veteran cemetery, there are a few steps that you must take to ensure this is possible.
Burial benefits are available for eligible veterans, their spouses and their dependent children in both national and state cemeteries. The VA offers veterans who meet these requirements a burial space in a national cemetery where there is space available, at no cost to the family. However, burial spaces may not be reserved in advance, so it is important for families to have access to a copy of the veteran’s DD 214 form, which identifies the classification of discharge, or equivalent to access veteran’s burial benefits.
When requesting burial in a national cemetery, contact the National Cemetery Administration to make arrangements. Your funeral director, next of kin, or person making arrangements will be required to submit all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office.
State cemeteries offer burial benefits to veterans that are similar to those available through national cemeteries. An eligible veteran who is buried in a state cemetery is still entitled to receive a government headstone or marker, one burial flag and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family.
To speak with one of our knowledgeable funeral directors about the process of burying a military veteran, call Bevis Funeral Home today at 850-385-2193.