If a veteran dies while they are on active military duty, they have a right to be buried in a national cemetery. This will not involve any cost. There are national cemeteries in 39 of the 50 states, and you can arrange for a burial in the national cemetery that is closest to you if they have a space available. Alternatively, a veteran’s family may consider burying them in a state veterans cemetery. This may require the veteran to have been a resident of that state.
A veteran also generally may be buried in a state or national cemetery if they were discharged after having served for 24 consecutive months or the full period for which they were called to duty. The main exception is if the veteran received a dishonorable discharge. If they received a non-dishonorable discharge following one period of service and a dishonorable discharge following another period of service, they may be eligible if the VA permits. A veteran will not be eligible for burial in a state or national cemetery if they were convicted of a crime punishable by death or life in prison, or if clear and convincing evidence shows that they committed the crime. Draft dodgers and people who were convicted of subversive activity cannot be buried in a state or national cemetery.
Benefits for Private Burials
The VA also provides a Burial Allowance to a family who plans a private burial or memorial for a loved one who was a veteran. The veteran must have been suffering from a service-related disability, have been entitled to disability benefits or a pension when they died, or have died during a stay at a VA health care facility or while traveling to or from a facility. A veteran may still qualify if they waived their right to disability benefits or a pension, or if they had a claim for benefits pending at the time of their death. A “VA health care facility” includes a non-VA facility that was providing treatment under a contract with the VA.
The veteran’s family must be able to show that they paid for the funeral, they did not receive other reimbursement, and the veteran did not receive a dishonorable discharge. Benefits related to the burial of a veteran may be up to $2,000 if the veteran died from a service-related disability. If their death did not result from a service-related disability, benefits will consist of a lesser sum that may vary from a few hundred to several hundred dollars. Benefits also may cover the costs of transporting the veteran to their burial if they died at a VA facility.
Applying for a Burial Allowance
You will need to complete an Application for Burial Benefits and submit proof that you have paid for the burial and funeral bills for which you are seeking reimbursement. The application also will require submitting a copy of the veteran’s death certificate and discharge papers. You must seek reimbursement within two years of the burial.
Burial allowances are not provided for individuals who died on active duty. However, certain family members may be entitled to receive bereavement counseling through the VA. This is limited to spouses, children, and parents. You can contact the Readjustment Counseling Service to find out more about counseling.