Veterans Death Benefits
In order to be eligible to receive veterans funeral benefits or compensation for expenses associated with final arrangements, you must be a veteran discharged or separated from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable, and have completed the required period of service.
U.S. Armed Forces members who die while on active duty are also eligible, as are spouses and dependent children of eligible living and deceased veterans, and of current and deceased armed forces members.
For detailed information on determining whether you are eligible for veterans funeral benefits, visit www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits or contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at 800-827-1000. The Neptune Society offers a free, comprehensive guide for download on veterans death benefits, eligibility, and related questions.
What types of funeral benefits are available to veterans?
Depending on the chosen final arrangements, specific funeral benefits are administered by the VA, or by the state in which the burial or inurnment takes place.
U.S. Government Benefits:
Burial or Inurnment in a National Cemetery
VA burial benefits include a grave site in any of the country’s 136 national cemeteries that have available space. When a veteran or a qualifying family member is buried or inurned in a national cemetery, at Arlington, or in a National Park cemetery, the government will pay for the opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care of the grave, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to
The National Cemetery Administration is responsible for verifying eligibility for burial in VA national cemeteries. Get detailed information here on the rules regarding burial of veterans, their spouses, and dependents in a national cemetery.
Headstone or Marker
The VA will provide a standard headstone or grave marker at no cost to the family. Get specific information on headstones and markers here.
The VA honors a veteran’s past service to our country by providing an American flag to drape the casket or accompany the cremation urn during the funeral service. The flag is generally given as a keepsake to the next of kin, or close friend of the family, following the service. Get more information on burial flags here.
Presidential Memorial Certificate
This engraved paper certificate honors the memory of the deceased veteran, and is signed by the current President of the United States. Find instructions for requesting a certificate here.
Scattering of Cremated Remains at Sea
This ceremony is provided by the U.S. Navy for a deceased veteran from any branch of the armed forces. The person authorized to direct disposition (usually a family member) will be responsible for expenses associated with cremating the deceased. The scattering ceremony itself is provided by the U.S. Navy at no cost to the family. Additional information is available here.
Burial at Sea for Intact (Casketed) Remains
This committal ceremony is available for a deceased veteran from any branch of the armed forces. There are specific requirements for preparing the casketed remains for burial at sea. The person authorized to direct disposition will be responsible for all expenses incurred during this preparation. The committal ceremony itself is provided by the U.S. Navy at no cost to the family. The scattering or committal ceremony is performed while the ship is deployed; therefore, family members are not allowed to be present.
The commanding officer of the ship assigned to perform the ceremony notify the family of the date, time, and latitude and longitude, once the scattering or committal service has been completed. Get detailed information here on eligibility and how to request a burial at sea for either cremated or casketed remains.
Since the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2000, every armed forces veteran and member on active duty or in the active reserve has the right to be buried with patriotic flourishes provided by a military honor guard.
Upon the family’s request, every eligible veteran will receive a basic military funeral honors ceremony. This ceremony includes members of the military serving as pallbearers, the folding and presentation of the U.S. burial flag, and the sounding of Taps, at no cost to the family. In certain instances, a rifle volley (21-gun salute) is also included in the ceremony. View the full U.S. Code regarding military honors here.
Burial or Inurnment in a State Cemetery
If the veteran or qualifying dependents are buried in a state veterans cemetery, burial services are provided by the individual state, not by the VA. It is important for the family of the deceased to check with the individual state veterans cemetery regarding policies, benefits, costs, etc. Available services can vary widely from one state to another, and even from one state veterans cemetery to another within the same state. You can find general resources on state veterans cemeteries here.
Burial Expense Reimbursement
If the veteran’s death is service-connected, the VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000. The VA will also pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-disabled veteran to the national cemetery that has available grave sites nearest the home of a deceased veteran. The person who bore the veteran’s burial expenses in such cases may claim reimbursement from VA.
For veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation, or would have been entitled to compensation but for receipt of military retirement pay, the VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance. When death occurs in a VA facility or a nursing home with which VA is contracted, eligibility is also established. Additional costs of transportation of the remains may be reimbursed.
When filing reimbursement claims of service-connected deaths, there is no time limit. In any other deaths, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation. The VA $300 plot allowance is not payable solely on wartime service. The VA will pay the allowance when the veteran is not buried in a cemetery that is under U.S. Government jurisdiction if the veteran is discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, if the veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension or would have been in receipt of compensation but for receipt of military retired pay, or if the veteran died while hospitalized by the VA.
The $300 plot allowance may be paid to the state if the veteran is buried without charge for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials. Burial expenses paid by the deceased’s employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed.
How do you apply for these benefits?
You can apply by filling out VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Benefits. VA Regional offices and many funeral providers will assist you in completing and filing this form. You can find the form here.
To ensure prompt handling of your claim, have the following information ready:
- Social Security number for yourself and your dependent children.
- Certified copy of original DD Form 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty).
- Certified copy of death certificate.
- Verification of the life insurance amount you will receive as a result of the veteran’s death.
- Paid receipts for hospital and doctor bills incurred by last illness, if applicable.
- Paid receipts for funeral and cemetery expenses.
- If either yourself or the veteran was previously married, provide a certified copy of the original divorce decree or death certificate proving the previous marriage was dissolved by divorce or death.
- If there are dependent children, you will need an original birth certificate for each child under 18, or over 18 if full-time student.
- If over age 18 and still in school, you will need to fill out VA Form 21-674.
- If you or the veteran receive Social Security benefits, the exact amount must be reported.
- If you already have a VA claim number, you must furnish the claim number you have been assigned.
- If you or the veteran receive additional income, the source and exact amount must be reported.