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Veterans Death Benefits Explained
We help a lot of Veterans, and many are expecting death benefits that will not be coming. It's a common misconception that Veterans receive adequate death benefits, otherwise known as a burial allowance. In fact, many Veterans get minimal death benefits, or no burial allowance at all. The VA used to pay Veteran burial benefits on a reimbursement basis, after survivors submitted receipts. Now they pay flat amounts to survivors, but if you read the official documents, it's extremely confusing. Let's look at some normal scenarios and break it down.
Veteran Dies in a Service Related Incident
This is a no-brainer. Of course there is a death benefit, if it is a "death connected to military service." In that case, the Veteran's family will receive $2000 intended for burial expenses, regardless of where the Veteran is buried.
Veteran Dies While Hospitalized at VA
Survivors will be paid up to $796 toward burial and funeral expenses, and a $796 plot-interment allowance (if not buried in a national cemetery). So that is a total of $1592, but only if strict eligibility requirements are met. (See below.)
Death While Not Hospitalized at the VA
In this case, $300 will be paid for funeral/burial expenses, plus a $796 plot-interment allowance (if not buried in a national cemetery). So that total will be $1096, but only if strict eligibility requirements are met. (See below.)
Here's the kicker. A HUGE number of Veteran's survivors are not eligible at all, and completely blind-sided when they find out. Here are the eligibility requirements, originally archived from https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special-burial.asp
A Veteran (and survivors) need to meet all of the first 3 bullet points, and at least 1 of the bottom seven bullet points in order to get help with funeral and burial costs. The bad news is that so few Veterans qualify, even though they thought they were covered.
The good news is that many Veterans are still eligible to be buried in a national cemetery, and you can find those details here. Most Veterans are eligible for memorial items. Most Veterans are also eligible to receive Military Honors, even if buried in a private cemetery.
Even if you qualify for Veteran burial benefits, the most that will cover is $2,000. If you meet ALL of the qualifications above, You can apply for those benefits here at Veterans Affairs.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, there will usually be at least another $5,000 in bills for a funeral.
We can help secure life insurance, even if you have common disabilities suffered by Veterans, including:
For leaving money to the family of a Veteran, or help with funeral expenses, please call 888-969-7894.
What About Other Burial Benefits?
While many Veterans won't be eligible for a death benefit, there are some other benefits that nearly all veterans will qualify for. Those include burial in a national cemetery, memorial items, and military funeral honors. Those are provided by the VA, at no cost to the surviving family.
Burial in a National Cemetery
There are more than 100 National Cemeteries in the country operated by the Veterans Administration. The burial benefits provided by the VA to eligible persons consist of a gravesite in any national cemetery, opening, and closing of the grave, perpetual care of the gravesite, with the spouse or dependents information inscribed on the veteran’s headstone.
Spouses and dependents buried in a national cemetery may be eligible to benefits consisting of burial with the veteran, and perpetual care of the gravesite. Eligible spouses and dependents can be buried, even if they pass away before the veteran.
To find out in advance whether you are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery you can apply here.
What About Burial in a Private Cemetery?
Even if buried in a private cemetery, the Veteran may be eligible for memorial items including a government headstone, marker or medallion, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC). The VA will cover the cost of the headstone or marker itself, but you have to pay the cost of placing it (the setting fee). You may also request a medallion that you can attach to a privately purchased headstone or marker. Spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery aren’t eligible for any benefits provided by the VA.
However, the VA will pay for the inscription of a spouse’s or dependent child's information on a Veteran’s headstone in a private cemetery if the family meets the eligibility requirements.
Veteran Memorial Items
Memorial items include:
• Government headstone, marker, or medallion
• Burial flag
• Presidential Memorial Certificate.
Eligibility requirements and information on applying can be found here.
A Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) is signed by the current President, honoring and recognizing the memory of your loved one. Eligibility requirements and information on how to acquire a PMC can be found here.
A United States flag is provided to the Veteran’s family to cover the casket or accompany the urn of the deceased veteran. Eligibility requirements and information on how to acquire a burial flag can be found here.
Military Funeral Honors
Upon the family's request, it is required that every eligible Veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, including folding and presenting the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps. Military funeral honors are arranged by the funeral home of your choosing.