What Are Veterans Death Benefits?

Although death benefits are available to veterans, as well as their families and veterans who did not engage in combat, less than half of those who are eligible for death benefits use them, according to the American Association of Retired People. Available veterans death benefits may include burial in a national cemetery, compensation for expenses, or grave markers for private cemeteries.

Burial in VA National Cemeteries: Who Is Eligible?

While many believe that death benefits are only available for those who fought in combat, most veterans are eligible to be buried in a Veterans Administration (VA) national cemetery.

To qualify for these benefits, the veteran’s discharge must not have been dishonorable. They must have received care from a VA facility, gotten a VA pension, or passed away while serving or because of a service-connected disability.

Veterans’ spouses, minor children, and unmarried adult dependent children may also be able to qualify for veterans death benefits, allowing them to be buried in national cemeteries alongside their loved ones.

Veterans Burial Benefits: Help for Families

Individuals who make funeral arrangements for qualifying deceased veterans can receive compensation to cover the expenses. To obtain benefits, an individual must have paid for the burial, transportation, or funeral costs. The person must have also either been a close family member or managed the estate.

For instance, a friend named executor of the estate and tasked with making final arrangements could use the veteran’s death benefits to cover the costs associated with a memorial service.

If your loved one is a veteran, you could receive compensation for up to $2,000 of funeral expenses. For those buried in a national cemetery, benefits provided at no cost include a gravesite, services to open and close the grave, and maintenance of the gravesite.

Additional benefits can include the following:

Inurnment or burial of cremated remains occurs with the same honors as a traditional burial.

When a spouse or dependent of a veteran passes away, they may qualify to be buried with the veteran, and their names added to headstones at no cost. Even if they predecease the veteran, veterans death benefits cover their burial in a national or private cemetery. This allows veterans to be buried beside their loved ones.

Making Advance Arrangements

While veterans do not need to plan their funerals and burials ahead of time, the VA does preapprove national cemetery burials. Preapproval involves determining whether you are eligible, selecting a VA national cemetery, and filling out an application.

Even if you do not preplan your services, let your loved ones know where you have stored your discharge papers.

Headstone Markers

As an alternative to being buried in a national cemetery, veterans and active-duty service members may also receive headstones, markers, and medallions if laid to rest in a private cemetery.

  • This is available to veterans buried in unmarked graves anywhere in the world.
  • Headstones, markers, and medallions are also available for graves marked with privately purchased headstones for veterans who died on or after November 1, 1990.

Those who served as enlisted personnel after September 7, 1980, or as officers after October 16, 1981, must have either died while serving on active duty or served for at least two years of continuous active duty.

Additional Resources

Surviving family members can consult Burial Benefits for Veterans and their Families. This guide created by the VA offers details to families on how to make final arrangements. To learn more, you also can call your local VA office or 800-827-1000 (TTY is 711).

Funeral directors can assist with obtaining burial flags, ordering headstones, requesting military funeral honors, and more.

At Wenzel Bennett & Harris P.C., when we consult with clients regarding their wills, trusts and other estate planning documents, we also make it a point to discuss their preferences for burial, funeral, cremation and other services. We provide guidance to assist you in documenting those preferences and pre-planning, if desired. If you are a veteran, we want to make sure you are aware of the benefits that may be available to your family to assist with your final expenses and how to obtain those benefits.

If you would like to schedule an Estate Planning Consultation, please call our office and speak to our client care coordinator, Doreen Escott, at (989) 356-6128.

If you have specific questions about your situation or would like to learn more, reach out to the team at WBH here.

Read more articles:

Medicare’s Limited Nursing Home Coverage

Many people believe that Medicare covers nursing home stays. In fact, Medicare's coverage of nursing home care is quite limited. Medicare covers up to 100 days of skilled nursing care per illness, but there are a number of requirements that must be met before the...

Court Case Illustrates the Danger of Using an Online Power of Attorney Form

A recent court case involving a power of attorney demonstrates the problem with using online estate planning forms instead of hiring an attorney who can make sure your documents are tailored to your needs. Mercedes Goosley owned a home in Pennsylvania. In 2013, she...

Why You May Need a Trust in Addition to a Power of Attorney

While everyone should have a durable power of attorney that appoints someone to act for them if they become incapacitated, in some circumstances, it is not enough. In these cases, a revocable trust can help.  A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone...

You Can Just Say No: Declining to Act as an Agent Under a Power of Attorney

Acting as an agent under a power of attorney is a big responsibility and it isn’t something everyone can take on. It is possible to resign or refuse the position. There are two main types of powers of attorney – financial and medical. As the agent under a power of...

When Should I Include a Pour Over Will in My Estate Plan?

In creating an estate plan, you are proactively taking steps to ensure that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes in the wake of your death.  One tool available to you in estate planning is known as a trust. There are numerous kinds of trusts. If...

Becoming a Family Caregiver for an Ailing Loved One

Taking on the responsibility of providing full-time care for an aging or disabled loved one can be a rewarding experience. Being a primary caregiver helps you rest assured that your loved one is receiving compassionate care from someone who will go above and beyond to...

Navigating Disputes in Probate Court

When someone passes away, the probate process ensures that the deceased’s estate fulfills its debts and that the heirs receive their assets. The deceased’s will dictates how to settle and distribute their assets and debts. (If no will exists, state intestacy laws...

Don’t Wait Until You’re Sick to Create an Estate Plan

In the wake of the pandemic, rising inflation, mass shooting tragedies, and other events, more people recognize that they need to plan for the future. Yet while financial planning has been at the top of many Americans’ minds, a vast majority of people have stalled in...

What Not to Include in Your Will

If you are considering preparing a will, this is a great first step in planning for the future. Clients often think that their will is the document that should include all their wishes and provide for the distribution of all their property and funds. That is not the...

Take These Three Steps When Your Child Turns 18

If your child has reached the teenage years, you may already feel as though you are losing control of her life. This is legally true once your child reaches the age of 18 because then the state considers your child to be an adult with the legal right to govern his or...