Letter to the Editor

Answering questions over veteran's burial

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dear Editor:

Many veterans are under the impression that their status as a veteran means that the government will pay for their burial. This is not true and it can cause great financial hardship for families who don't understand it at a time when they are least prepared to deal with it.

Eligibility for potential burial benefits depends on the veteran's discharge papers, which cannot always be obtained quickly from government sources. It is very important that veterans have their discharge papers located in a secure place known to their next of kin. To be eligible for burial benefits, a veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Certain other factors including time period and length of service may apply.

For veterans interred at a national or state veterans' cemetery, the plot, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care are provided at no cost. If buried at a private cemetery, the family must pay these costs, as well as any related expenses.

If burial is to take place in a national or state veterans' cemetery, the cemetery will make the arrangements for the interment only. Neither the cemetery nor the VA makes funeral arrangements or performs cremations. It is the responsibility of the veteran's family to make arrangements for funeral services with a funeral home, including memorial services, viewings, preparing and transporting the deceased, the casket, etc. Any items or services obtained from a funeral home will be at the families' expense, including the plot and grave provisions if the veteran is not buried in a national or state cemetery.

The VA will provide free of charge a burial flag, government marker, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate regardless of where the veteran is buried. The VA does not pay for any expenses related to a veteran's burial or funeral, however certain survivors may apply for a monetary burial allowance paid after-the-fact by the VA.

This allowance is given generally only if the veteran was in receipt of VA disability compensation or pension at the time of death, if the veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility.

The amount payable depends on whether the veteran's death was related to a military service-connected disability, with the payments ranging from $300 to $2,000. There are other factors that can affect potential eligibility for this benefit, so veterans or their families should contact the VA at 800-827-1000 or a Veterans Service Officer for more information prior to actually needing the information.

For more information or to file for a burial benefit, please call the Missouri Veterans Commission at 417-448-1133.

Bill Gillette

Veterans Service Officer, Nevada