[dropcap]L[/dropcap]osing a loved one is one of the most difficult things that we will face in our lifetime. This is true whether the person we lose is young or old. It is an emotionally trying time that requires a lot of effort and preparation that means you mostly have to put off grieving for the first few days after your loved one passes. While the family is mired in grief over the loss of someone they love who was on active duty at the time, they will also be tasked with making all the proper arrangements for the funeral and burial of your loved one, which requires attention to far more details than one might initially envision.
There are numerous different things that you have to plan for from whether you want the body cremated and scatter the cremated remains or you want a traditional burial. If you want a traditional burial, there is a whole host of decisions that have to be made from where you want the person buried, the type of casket and tombstone you want for your loved one, and the details of the service. It is a lot to think about, especially when you are also trying to process the loss. This can be especially true for the family of a military veteran.
Whether they passed on active duty during the course of their service to the country, a military service-connected disability, or from old age or some disease, a veteran is entitled to a different kind of burial than a civilian is and what many people don’t know is that the Veteran’s Administration actually provides a small number of burial benefits (including burial expenses) for veterans that can be very useful to people during their time of need. If you are a veteran or you have a loved one that is a veteran, you will want to make sure that you know what burial expenses you are entitled to, what the requirements are, and how to obtain the benefits when you need access to them to ensure military funeral honors.
All members of the military who have obtained veteran status are entitled to burial benefits through the VA system. In order to be considered a veteran, one must have been on active duty continuously for at least 24 months. Individuals who were dishonorably discharged do not qualify as veterans nor do they have access to any of the benefits available to veterans. If you or your loved one has met these conditions, they are considered a veteran and entitled to a wide range of benefits.
If at all possible, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with the different types of benefits and service offerings before you need them so you aren’t trying to navigate the VA while also trying to grieve, but we also understand that this may not always be possible or you simply may not have known that these benefits were available or what you need to do to access them.
There are different eligibility requirements and depending on those that your loved one meets, you will be entitled to differing amounts of compensation for funeral expenses. If your loved one was hospitalized in a VA hospital or other care facility at the time of their death, their spouse or dependents are entitled to up to $762 towards burial and funeral-related costs. If the veteran was at a hospital not affiliated with the VA at the time of their death, they are entitled to $300 towards burial and other related expenses, as well as a $762 interment allowance for veterans who are not buried at a national cemetery.
If the veteran died in connection to their service, their families are entitled to greater levels of compensation. In the event that the deceased died relating to their service, their spouse and dependents are entitled to up to $2,000 towards burial or funeral services. If the veteran is being buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the costs of transportation may also be reimbursed or covered by the Veterans Administration.
Veterans are eligible for burial in VA national cemeteries, and their spouse and dependents are also eligible for burial in these cemeteries with their loved one. Whether your loved one is to be buried in a VA national cemetery or a private cemetery, they are eligible for burial benefits, though at different levels of support. Under certain instances, a veteran will be eligible for burial with military honors, burial flags, and even Presidential Memorial Certificates, all provided to the family of the deceased at no cost to them. These honors are available for qualifying veterans whether they are buried at a national or private cemetery.
[highlight color="green"] In order to have your loved one buried at a VA national cemetery,[/highlight] you will need to provide discharge documentation for the veteran, as well as be prepared to answer a number of questions about where and how you wish your loved one to be buried. There are 135 national cemeteries that are run and maintained by the VA that veterans and their family are entitled to be buried at.
Some veterans sign up for what is called the Survivor Benefit Plan, which allows your family to continue to draw on military benefits, even after you have passed away. This often allows the family to continue to receive pension payments, access to healthcare and other services, as well as burial benefits upon their death as well. Survivor benefits have a range of eligibility requirements that go beyond the scope of this piece to explain.
Nothing can bring back a lost loved one, but as veterans of the United States military, your loved one is entitled to certain benefits upon death as a way of honoring the deceased and giving their family benefits and assistance in their time of mourning. If you are a veteran or your loved one is a veteran, it is important to understand the services and benefits that are available to you. Funeral services are incredibly expensive and the help provided by the VA can dramatically reduce the impact of a funeral on the family. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death of your loved one, the amount and type of benefits they are entitled to may vary. For specific eligibility requirements or for answers to specific question, you can always contact your local VA office for more information.