Veterans discharged from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable and service members who die while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, as well as spouses and dependent children of Veterans and active duty service members, may be eligible for VA burial and memorial benefits. The Veteran does not have to die before a spouse or dependent child for them to be eligible.
With certain exceptions, active duty service beginning after Sept. 7, 1980, as an enlisted person, and after Oct. 16, 1981, as an officer, must be for a minimum of 24 consecutive months or the full period of active duty (as in the case of reservists or National Guard members called to active duty for a limited duration). Active duty for training, by itself, while serving in the reserves or National Guard, is not sufficient to confer eligibility. Reservists and National Guard members, as well as their spouses and dependent children, are eligible if they were entitled to retired pay at the time of death, or would have been upon reaching requisite age. See Chapter 8 for more information.
VA’s National Cemetery Scheduling Office or local national cemetery directors verify eligibility for burial. A copy of the Veteran’s discharge document that specifies the period(s) of active duty and character of discharge is usually sufficient to determine eligibility. In some instances, a copy of the deceased’s death certificate and proof of relationship to the Veteran (for eligible family members) may be required.
Under Section 2411 of Title 38 of the United States Code, certain otherwise eligible individuals found to have committed federal or state capital crimes are barred from burial or memorialization in a VA national cemetery, and from receipt of government-furnished headstones, markers, burial flags, and Presidential Memorial Certificates.
Veterans and other claimants for VA burial benefits have the right to appeal decisions made by VA regarding eligibility for national cemetery burial or other memorial benefits.
Questions about the full range of VA burial and memorial benefits may be directed to the nearest national cemetery, located by calling 1-800-827-1000, or visiting www.cem.va.gov.
Burial in VA National Cemeteries
Burial in a VA national cemetery is available for eligible Veterans, their spouses and dependents at no cost to the family and includes the gravesite, grave-liner, opening and closing of the grave, a headstone or marker, and perpetual care as part of a national shrine. For Veterans, benefits also include a burial flag and military funeral honors. Family members and other loved ones of deceased Veterans may request Presidential Memorial Certificates.
VA operates 131 national cemeteries, of which 71 are open for new casketed interments and 19 are open to accept only cremated remains. Burial options are limited to those available at a specific cemetery but may include in-ground casket, or interment of cremated remains in a columbarium, in ground or in a scatter garden. Contact the national cemetery directly, or visit www.cem.va.gov to determine if a particular cemetery is open for new burials, and which other options are available.
The funeral director or the next of kin makes interment arrangements by contacting the National Cemetery Scheduling Office or national cemetery in which burial is desired. VA normally does not conduct burials on weekends. Gravesites cannot be reserved; however, VA will honor reservations made under previous programs.
Private Cemeteries: To submit a claim for a headstone or marker for a private cemetery, mail a completed VA Form 40-1330, Application for Standard Government Headstone or Marker, and a copy of the Veteran’s military discharge document to Memorial Programs Service (41A1), Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Rd., Quantico, VA 22134-3903. The form and supporting documents may also be faxed toll free to 1-800-455-7143.
Before ordering, check with the cemetery to ensure that the Government-furnished headstone or marker will be accepted
Burial Flags: VA will furnish a U.S. burial flag to memorialize:
- Veterans who served during wartime or after Jan. 31, 1955.
- Veterans who were entitled to retired pay for service in the Reserve or National Guard, or would have been entitled if over age 60.
- Members or former members of the Selected Reserve who served their initial obligation, or were discharged for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or died while a member of the Selected Reserve.
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses: VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the Veteran’s death is service-connected. In such cases, the person who bore the Veteran’s burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA.
In some cases, VA will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a Veteran whose death was service-connected to the nearest national cemetery with available gravesites. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims in service-connected death cases.
Plot Allowance: VA will pay a $700 plot allowance when a Veteran is buried in a cemetery not under U.S. government jurisdiction if: the Veteran was discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; the Veteran was receiving compensation or pension or would have been if the Veteran was not receiving military retired pay; or the Veteran died in a VA facility.
The $700 plot allowance may be paid to the state for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for Veteran burials if the Veteran is buried without charge. Burial expenses paid by the deceased’s employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed.
Military Funeral Honors: Upon request, the Department of Defense (DoD) will provide military funeral honors consisting of folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “Taps.” A funeral honors detail consists of two or more uniformed members of the armed forces, with at least one member from the deceased’s branch of service.
Family members should inform their funeral director if they want military funeral honors. DoD maintains a toll-free number (1-877-MIL-HONR) for use by funeral directors only to request honors. VA can help arrange honors for burials at VA national cemeteries. Veterans service organizations or volunteer groups may help provide honors. Visit Veterans Affairs site for information on the National Cemetery Administration.
Preparing in Advance For Burial in a VA National Cemetery
Gravesites in VA national cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance; however, reservations made prior to 1962 will be honored. Families are encouraged to prepare in advance by discussing cemetery options, collecting the Veteran’s military information including discharge papers, and by contacting the cemetery where burial is desired.
Requests for burial in a VA national cemetery cannot be made via the Internet. No special forms are required when requesting burial in a VA national cemetery. The person making burial arrangements should have their funeral home contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at the time of need. Scheduling can be done seven days a week for interments on Mondays through Fridays.
To schedule a burial: Fax all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417 and follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.
If possible, the following information concerning the deceased should be provided when the cemetery is first contacted:
- Full name and military rank
- Branch of service
- Social security number
- Service number
- VA claim number, if applicable
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of death
- Date of retirement or last separation from active duty
- Copy of any military separation document, such as DoD Form 214 (DD-214)
For Burial in a Private Cemetery
Burial benefits available for Veterans buried in a private cemetery may include a Government headstone, marker or medallion, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Some Veterans may also be eligible for Burial Allowances. There are not any VA benefits available to spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery. Learn more about these benefits.