The loss of a loved one who was on active duty in the military or who was a veteran can be a very difficult time. In addition to your grief, you may have questions about where you can have your loved one buried or whether the VA can help pay for the burial expenses.
Burials in a National Cemetery
The VA has national cemeteries in 39 states. You can check the map of national cemeteries to see if there is one near you. If your veteran is eligible to be buried in a national cemetery, then you can probably arrange to have them buried in one near your home, as long as there is space available. There will not be any cost to you for the burial.
Eligibility for Burial in a National Cemetery
If your loved one died while on active military duty, he or she is automatically eligible to be buried in a national cemetery.
If your loved one was a veteran discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, he or she could be eligible for national cemetery burial. Generally it is required that the veteran have served for 24 months in a row, without any interruption in service, or than the veteran served for the full period for which they were called to duty. If the veteran served for more than one period with the military and had one honorable discharge, and another discharge under conditions other than dishonorable, your VA Regional Office will decide if the veteran qualifies.
Members of the Reserve, including those who died while on Reserve training, are sometimes eligible for burial in a national cemetery.
Disqualification From Burial in a National Cemetery
In certain limited circumstances, an otherwise eligible veteran will be barred from internment in a national cemetery. This can occur if the veteran was convicted of a crime punishable by life in prison or the death penalty, or if the veteran was not available for prosecution but it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that he or she committed the crime. Individuals who dodged the draft or were convicted of a subversive activity are likewise ineligible for burial in a national cemetary.
Burials in a State Veterans Cemetery
If there is not a national cemetery near you, you can also consider burying your loved one in a state veterans cemetery. Eligibility requirements for interment in most state veterans cemeteries are the same or similar to the requirements for national cemeteries, but some states also require that you be a resident of that state.
Reimbursement for Private Burial or Memorial
If you have a private burial or memorial for your veteran, in some cases you have the right to seek reimbursement from the VA for associated costs. This is called a Burial Allowance. Veterans who were disabled or receiving VA medical care are usually eligible for this allowance.
Eligibility for the Burial Allowance
You can request a burial allowance only if you paid for the funeral, no one else has reimbursed you, and the veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The deceased veteran also must meet one of the following requirements.
- The veteran died due to a service-connected disability.
- The veteran was entitled to disability compensation or pension when she or he died. This includes veterans who:
- were receiving pension or disability compensation
- waived pension or disability compensation in favor of retirement pay or disability severance, and
- had a disability compensation or pension claim pending at the time of death, which was later approved.
- The veteran died while at (or on the way to) a VA health care facility. This includes veterans who:
- died while receiving VA medical treatment at a VA hospital
- died while receiving VA medical treatment at a non-VA facility under VA contract
- died while traveling at VA expense to or from medical treatment, and
- died while a patient at a VA nursing home or a VA-approved nursing home.
How Much Does the Burial Allowance Pay?
The amount that the VA will pay towards burial costs will depend on whether the death was caused by a service-connected disability and other factors.
If the veteran died to a service-connected disability, the burial allowance can be up to $2,000. If you paid to transport the veteran to a national cemetery, some of the transportation cost is also eligible for reimbursement.
If the veteran died from a medical condition unrelated to his or her military service, more limited reimbursement is available. If the veteran died while in a VA hospital, up to $700 in reimbursement may be available, while only $300 is available if the veteran did not die in a VA hospital.
In addition, the costs of transporting the deceased veteran may be reimbursed if the veteran died while in a VA hospital or nursing home.
How to Apply for a Burial Allowance
Apply by completing an Application for Burial Benefits. You will need to provide a copy of the veteran's death certificate and discharge document, along with copies of funeral and burial bills and proof that you have paid the bills. Send your completed application to the VA Regional Office closest to you. Apply within two years of the burial or funeral, or you will lose your right to the allowance.
Other Burial Benefits for Veterans
Other burial benefits include headstones or other markers, burial flags, military funeral honors, and Presidential Memorial Certificates. For more information about these benefits, visit the VA website.
If your loved one died while on active duty, you may be eligible to receive bereavement counseling through the VA counseling and medical centers. Free counseling is available for spouses, children, and parents of deceased military service members.
Bereavement counseling is coordinated through the Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS). To arrange for counseling, call the RCS at 202-461-6530 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The person you speak with can help you locate the nearest VA Center that offers counseling, and many times you can have a counselor come to your home, if that works better for you.