Coping with Loss, Part 2: Special Benefits for Service Members and Veterans
In part 1 of this series, we discussed some ways to handle and reduce the often-high prices for funeral and burial services. In part 2, we’ll discuss special death-related benefits available to service members and veterans.
Burial and Funeral Benefits for Service Members Who Die During Active Duty
When a military service member dies while on active duty, it is always a devastating event. The armed services pay out a variety of death benefits to survivors in this situation, including a $100,000 death gratuity. The family will also be assigned a Casualty Assistance Officer to assist with logistics and support.
As far as burial and funeral costs, burial and interment in any VA cemetery (including Arlington) are provided without cost, as well as a headstone and other military funeral honors. The military will reimburse additional funeral related costs (which should be fairly minimal) up to $1,000. Immediate family member travel to the site of burial is also paid for by the military. If the family prefers burial in a nonmilitary cemetery, the military will reimburse funeral and burial costs up to $8,700.
For much more on the benefits provided to families of service members who die during active duty, visit A Survivor’s Guide to Benefits.
Burial and Funeral Benefits for Veterans
Some veterans who die after leaving the service are also eligible for monetary burial and funeral benefits. Typically, this includes those who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and who died while receiving a VA pension or compensation, or while receiving military retirement or disability pay, or while in a VA hospital.
Typically, the benefit for a non-military service-related death is $300 towards burial and funeral costs ($749 if hospitalized by the VA at time of death) and $749 towards interment costs. For service-related deaths, typically, the benefit is $2,000. These benefits are paid out to the veteran’s spouse, children, parents, or estate executor.
Unfortunately, military families need to be aware of potential scams in the area of burial. Some private businesses may offer “free gravesites” to veterans but upcharge the actual burial fee to make up for it. Be sure to look at a number of options.
Private vs. Military Cemetery
Many military families are interested in having their loved one interred in a military cemetery. The VA maintains 140 VA cemeteries in 40 states, so there is a good chance that one will be located close by. Gravesites cannot be reserved before the time of need, but it is possible to pre-apply to ensure eligibility.
Some veterans are eligible for cost-free ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery. This typically would include any service member who has received full retirement benefits and those who received special medals and honors (and their spouses and children), but for more detailed information, visit their site. Inurement of cremated remains is available at Arlington for any honorably discharged member of the military.
When military families prefer a private cemetery, the military will still provide (on request) a free headstone, marker, or medallion honoring the deceased’s military service, as well as a burial flag and presidential memorial certificate. To apply for these benefits, visit this page.
Veterans who served on active duty who were discharged honorably are also eligible for military honors at the funeral (which may include flag presentation, playing of taps, rifle salute, and a military detail) at no expense.
Military.com. (n.d.) Burial Allowance. Retrieved from http://www.military.com/benefits/burial-and-memorial/burial-allowance.html
US Department of Defense. (2016). A survivor’s guide to benefits: Taking care of our families. Retrieved from http://download.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/ResourceGuides/A-Survivors-Guide-To-Benefits.pdf
US Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.) Chapter 8 Burial and Memorial Benefits: Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book/benefits_chap08.asp
US Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.) Compensation: Burial benefits. Retrieved from http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special-burial.asp