Veterans' Funeral
& Burial Benefits
(Including Spouse and
Dependents' Information)


All veterans are entitled to burial in a national cemetery, a grave marker (regardless of the cemetery), and a flag. Spouses and dependent children are also entitled to a lot and marker but only in a national cemetery. There will be no charges for opening or closing the grave, a vault or liner, or setting the marker in a national cemetery. Depending on the circumstances, the family will be responsible for all other expenses, including transportation to the cemetery.

  • Death during active duty. All funeral expenses will be paid by the military—body preparation, casket, transportation to the place of disposition, interment (if in a national cemetery), and marker. In addition, next-of-kin are entitled to a "death gratuity" of $6,000.
  • Death due to a service related injury. There is a $1,500 burial allowance for these veterans which may be used to cover some of the funeral director's expenses, the casket, and transportation to the cemetery. If death occurred in a VA facility, transportation of the body to the cemetery will be paid, provided it is no farther than the last place of residence.

    If burial is not in a national cemetery, there is a $150 interment allowance, but it is unlikely that will cover opening and closing or vault charges, let alone the cost of the lot. Although a marker is available at no charge, the private cemetery will probably have a setting fee.

  • Non service-related death in a VA facility OR while collecting a VA pension or disability compensation. There is a $300 burial allowance which may be used to defray some of the usual funeral expenses. Although burial in a national cemetery is free to veterans, all other mortuary expenses are the responsibility of the family. Transportation to a national cemetery (not farther than the residence of the deceased) will be provided only if the death occurs in a VA facility. The $150 interment allowance applies when burial is in other than a national cemetery.
  • Death of a veteran outside a VA facility, not receiving military pension or compensation. The $1,500, $300, and $150 benefits do not apply, nor is the reimbursement for transportation to the cemetery. The lot in a national cemetery, any required vault, interment, a marker, and flag are the only burial benefits. If interment is in other than a national cemetery, the family is responsible for the cost of the lot, opening and closing charges, the vault, and any fee charged for setting the government marker, if that is selected. The family must also bear all other funeral costs.
Spouse and Dependents
  • A spouse and dependents of an eligible veteran are entitled to burial in a national cemetery, even if the veteran is not buried there.

    A spouse who remarries a nonveteran and whose marriage ends in death or divorce may claim burial rights from the prior marriage.

    Spouses receiving military pay and who die in a military medical facility are eligible for military transport to the nearest national cemetery or no farther than the last permanent residence.

    Adult children of veterans are entitled to burial benefits only if disabled and dependent.

Others Who May be Eligible
  • There are a number of others eligible for veterans' burial benefits if the person has provided military-related service. The list is quite long and includes civilians who were involved with military efforts during war-time. Members of the National Guard and Reserves with 20 years of service are eligible. Some Public Health Service personnel are also eligible. You should inquire if you believe you might be entitled to such benefits.
Persons Not Eligible
  • Remarried spouses wed to a nonveteran

  • Divorced spouses

  • Adult children

  • Parents, siblings and others—even if they are dependents

  • Those with a dishonorable discharge

  • Those convicted of subversive activities
  • Memorials are available to all veterans, spouses, and dependent children buried in a national cemetery and will be set without charge. Markers are available for veterans only—not spouse or dependents—for use in other cemeteries unless the grave has already been marked by a private memorial. The installation cost must be borne by the family when in a non-government cemetery. Several styles of markers are available and must be consistent with existing monuments. Niche markers for cremains are also available.

    Inscription must include name, branch of service, year of birth, year of death—in this order—and may include emblems of belief, rank, and decorations earned. At private expense, additional items—such as nick-names and terms of endearment—may be added but must be approved by the VA.

Miscellaneous Benefits & Other Information
  • You may not reserve space in a national cemetery ahead of time; arrangements are made only at the time of death. Therefore, there is no guarantee that spouses will be interred side-by-side.

  • Burials in a national cemetery are not usually conducted on weekends.

  • National cemeteries provide space for both body burial and cremated remains.

  • Check with the cemetery regarding grave site adornments other than natural cut flowers.

  • Military honors or a funeral honor guard may be available from nearby military installations or veterans groups. Fly-overs are reserved for those on active duty at the time of death.

  • A flag is provided on request for the burial of any veteran. Apply through the VA and pickup at a U.S. Post Office. Family members may wish to purchase a flag case for later display, available through private sources.

  • Next-of-kin, other relatives or friends may request a "Presidential Memorial Certificate." More than one may be requested.

  • A family may apply directly to the VA for all benefits. Although it may be convenient to let the undertaker do so, you may wish to ask if the mortician charges for submitting claims.

  • When the body of a veteran without next-of-kin is unclaimed from a VA facility and the estate is without sufficient assets, the VA will assume responsibility for burial.

  • Other than for sea burial, there are no casket requirements for routine body burial. An undertaker handling the unclaimed body of a vet must supply something more durable than cardboard, unless the body is to be cremated.

  • "No-fee" passports are available for family members visiting overseas grave sites or memorials.

  • The National Cemetery System may be asked to do a search to locate anyone interred in a national cemetery. In addition to general vital statistics, you will need to know the state from which the veteran entered military service.

The VA has gotten complaints from vets who were approached by commercial funeral outfits offering free cemetery lots or other so-called veterans benefits. They do not represent the U.S. government! Be sure to ask:
  • Must you also purchase another lot?

  • Where is it located? How much will it cost?

  • Is "perpetual care" additional?

  • What are the costs for opening and closing each grave?

  • Must certain memorials be purchased through the cemetery?

  • What are the costs for setting memorials?

  • Is a vault required? Even for cremated remains? May it be purchased elsewhere?

  • Are there marker or planting restrictions?

  • What are the "administrative" charges?

  • Who owns the cemetery? Are there nearby municipal or religious cemeteries which charge less for the same services?
Burial At Sea

Burial (or the scattering of cremains) at sea is available to all veterans and dependents, and is provided by the Navy or US Coast Guard. A flag is required, and—if supplied by the family—can be returned. If supplied by the Navy, it will not be.

Because sea burials are done at the convenience of the military, the family may not witness sea burial.

There are very strict rules for how a body and casket are to be prepared for a burial at sea. Information about this can be obtained from the regional Veterans Administration office in Tampa. Their phone number is 1(800)827-1000.

[Webmaster's note: The Veterans Administration has a very good website which includes the downloadable forms to request burial in a national cemetery, a grave marker, and a flag. Check it out at]

Copyright © FAMSA~FCA 1996

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