Frequently Asked Questions

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Who is eligible to receive the burial flag?

All veterans, except those dishonorably discharged, are entitled to a burial flag.

Who usually reports the death of a person to the Social Security Administration (SSA)?

In most cases, the funeral director makes the report to the SSA, using the deceased’s Social Security number provided by the family. If you need to report a death or apply for benefits, call 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).

I am a survivor of a deceased U.S. veteran. Where can I learn about death benefits for survivors?

Certain family members are also covered under veteran’s funeral benefits. This includes the existing spouse of a veteran and dependent minor children, or unmarried adult children. Parents may also be included under certain circumstances. Specific requirements must be met for spouses and dependents to qualify for veteran’s burial benefits. Read detailed information about benefits.

Who is eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a person dies?

Survivors who may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits include:

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled).
  • A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child under age 16 or disabled.
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school); or age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
  • A stepchild, grandchild, step-grandchild or adopted child under certain circumstances.
  • Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.
  • A surviving divorced spouse under certain circumstances.

Read more about survivor benefits.

What forms or information do I need to apply for Social Security survivor’s benefits?

If you are not already receiving Social Security benefits, it is important to apply promptly because benefits may be paid from the time you apply, rather than the time the worker died. You can apply by telephone or at any Social Security office. You will need to provide the following information to apply for survivor’s benefits:

  • Proof of death—either from a funeral home or death certificate.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • The deceased worker’s Social Security number.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Your marriage certificate (if applying as a widow or widower).
  • Your divorce papers (if applying as a divorced widow or widower).
  • Dependent children’s Social Security numbers and birth certificates.
  • Deceased workers W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year.
  • The name of your bank and your account number so benefits can be deposited directly into your account.

Read more about eligibility and applying for survivor benefits.

Who is eligible to receive a Social Security lump-sum death payment?

A surviving spouse or child may receive a special lump-sum death payment of $255 if they meet certain requirements. If the surviving spouse was living in the same household with the worker when he or she died, the surviving spouse is eligible to receive the payment. If they were living apart, the surviving spouse can still receive the lump-sum if, during the month the worker died, he or she was already receiving benefits on the worker’s record; or became eligible for benefits upon the worker’s death.

If there is no surviving spouse, the lump-sum payment will go to the worker’s child or children, if during the month the worker died, the child/children was already receiving benefits on the worker’s record, or became eligible for benefits upon the worker’s death.

Read more about eligibility and applying for lump-sum death payment.

For more information, contact your local Social Security office or call 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).

Does the government pay for embalming or cremation of a veteran or family member?

The Veterans Administration does not pay for specific funeral services, but it provides a burial allowance to the family of the deceased veteran. Read the VA burial benefits regulations or download a printable fact sheet.

How does a beneficiary file a death claim for Veterans’ Group Life (VGLI) Insurance?

To file a claim, download and complete form SGLV 8283, Claim for Death Benefits.
Fax it to 877-832-4943, or mail it to the following address with a copy of the death certificate:

Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (OSGLI)
PO Box 70173
Philadelphia, PA 19176-9912

What happens to the burial flag of a veteran after the funeral service?

The flag is removed from the casket, folded properly, and given to the next of kin as a keepsake. If next of kin is not available, the flag may be given to a friend or donated upon request.

How can a burial flag be displayed?

A burial flag is displayed on the casket, but folded differently depending on whether the casket is open or closed. It should not be displayed outside, since the material is not suitable for outside weather conditions. The application for a flag includes instructions on how it should be displayed.

Can a burial flag be replaced?

No. By law the VA can only issue one flag for a veteran’s funeral. If the burial flag is lost, destroyed, or stolen, you may be able to obtain assistance through local veterans’ groups or other community organizations.

How can you apply for a burial flag for a U.S. veteran?

You can apply for a burial flag by completing VA Form 27-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes. The funeral provider can assist you with obtaining a flag as well. U.S. Post Offices are the primary issuing point for burial flags; call and confirm with the post office in advance. Not all local post offices have burial flags on hand, but they should be able to direct you to the closest issuing post office. Regional VA offices can also help identify local issuing points.

Why does the VA provide a burial flag?

A U.S. flag is provided, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces. It is furnished to honor the memory of a veteran’s service to his or her country.

Who is eligible to receive veterans burial benefits?

For the purpose of receiving funeral benefits or compensation for expenses associated with final arrangements, a “veteran” is defined as one of the following:

• Someone who is currently serving, or has served, as a member of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard)
• Members of Reserve Components and Reserve Officers Training Corps
• Commissioned Officers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
• A Commissioned Officer of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service
• World War II Merchant Mariners
• The Philippine Armed Forces

Certain family members are also covered under veterans funeral benefits. This includes the existing spouse of a veteran and dependent minor children, or unmarried adult children. Parents may also be included under certain circumstances. Specific requirements must be met for spouses and dependents to qualify for veteran’s burial benefits. Read complete details about eligibility for burial benefits.

Can I schedule or reserve a burial in a national cemetery? How do I do this?

Grave sites in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance, but you can schedule a burial. Let your family know your wishes, and where your discharge papers are. You must send the VA National Cemetery Administration an application, and it will make pre-need burial eligibility determination.

There are two main steps to scheduling a burial.

  1. Submit documentation of eligibility to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office. You can do this by either faxing the appropriate documentation to 1-866-900-6417, or you can scan and email the documentation to NCA.Scheduling@va.gov. Acceptable forms of discharge documents may be found here.
  2. Call the Scheduling Office at 1-800-535-1117 with the following required information:
    • Cemetery of choice.
    • First or subsequent burial (veteran or dependent already buried).
    • If subsequent interment, who is already interred, section and site number (if known).
    • Decedent’s full name, gender, Social Security number, date of death, date of birth and relationship (veteran or dependent).
    • Contact information (funeral director’s name as well as the name, address, and e-mail address of the funeral home).
    • Next of kin information (name, relationship to deceased, Social Security number, phone number, address).
    • Type of religious emblem for headstone (if known).
    • Did the decedent reside within 75 miles of requested cemetery?
    • ZIP code of decedent at time of death.
    • County of decedent at time of death.
    • Type of burial (casket or cremation).
    • Marital status of deceased (if veteran is buried in a private cemetery, must provide documentation of marital status of spouse at time of death).
    • Casket size/liner size/urn size/urn vault size.
    • Is surviving spouse a Veteran?
    • Any disabled children for future interment (must provide name and date of birth). If requesting immediate interment (must provide marital status, doctor’s statement stating type of illness, date of onset of illness and capability of self-support).
    • Military honors requested.
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