V.A. Burial Benefits

Find Out What Burial Costs Are Paid For
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The V.A. offers several types of burial-related assistance to the families of veterans. The type of assistance available depends on the veteran's benefits status at the time of death and whether the veteran's cause of death was a service-related disability. Burial at a national cemetery is also available for the spouse or dependent of a veteran.

Burial in a national or state veterans cemetery: Any veteran

Any veteran (not dishonorably discharged) is eligible for burial at a grave site in any of the 131 national cemeteries or in a state veterans cemetery in the state where the veteran lived at the time of death. Whether a veteran can be buried in a particular cemetery depends on whether there are grave sites available there. Grave sites cannot be reserved prior to the veteran's death.

There's no cost to the family for the grave site or for a government headstone or marker, which the cemetery provides. This burial site and assistance doesn't include either arrangements for or the cost of a funeral or cremation, which must be obtained privately.

Spouses and dependents may also be buried in a national cemetery, with the veteran. The spouse's or dependent's name, date of birth, and date of death will be inscribed on the veteran's headstone, at no cost to the family. Eligible spouses and dependents may be buried in a national cemetery even if they die before the veteran.

Headstone for burial in private cemetery: Any veteran

For any veteran who's buried in a private cemetery, the V.A. will provide (at no cost to the family) a government headstone or marker and a burial flag. However, arrangements for placing the headstone in a private cemetery, and the fees for setting the headstone, are the responsibility of the veteran's family. No headstone is provided for the spouse or dependent of a veteran buried in a private cemetery.

Funeral and burial costs allowance: Certain qualifying veterans

The families of certain deceased veterans are paid a funeral and burial allowance by the V.A. In order to qualify for an allowance, one of the following conditions must be met:

  • The veteran died from a service-related disability.

  • The veteran was receiving a V.A. pension or compensation at the time of death (or had filed for such benefits and after death was found to be entitled to them).

  • The veteran died at a V.A. hospital, or while receiving care at a non-V.A. hospital under contract from the V.A.

  • The veteran died during travel, authorized and paid for by the V.A., for the purpose of receiving medical care.

The amount of the allowance depends on whether the death was service-related.

Service-related death. If the qualifying veteran died from a service-related disability, the V.A. pays up to $2,000 for burial expenses, plus transportation costs to a V.A. national cemetery if buried there. (The V.A. won't pay this allowance if the burial was paid for by insurance or by anyone other than the person applying for the allowance.)

Nonservice-related death. If the qualifying veteran's death wasn't caused by a service-related disability, the V.A. will pay up to $300 for funeral and burial expenses and up to another $300 for the cost of a burial plot or interment space.

How can I apply for V.A. burial benefits?

Arrangements for burial in a national or state cemetery cannot be made online. Instead, you must telephone the V.A. at its toll-free number at 800-827-1000.

To apply for a burial allowance, you need to fill out and submit V.A. form 21-530.

What's needed to apply for V.A. burial benefits?

Burial in a national or state cemetery or a V.A. burial allowance. You must provide a copy of the veteran's (or spouse's, if it's the spouse to be buried) death certificate and a certified copy of the veteran's military discharge document. Form DD 214 is the standard discharge document that's been used for the past 60 years. But for World War II veterans discharged before 1950, the documents might instead be entitled WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD, or NAVCG 553. Find forms at the V.A.'s website.

Burial allowance. To obtain an allowance for funeral, burial, and/or interment expenses, in addition to the deceased's death certificate and the veteran's discharge document, you must provide copies of the funeral, burial, burial plot, or interment bills, plus evidence that you've paid them in full.

Where can I get help applying for V.A. burial benefits?

If you're unable to locate a discharge document among the veteran's papers, you can get a copy online through the National Archives eVetRecs request system or by calling the V.A.'s toll-free help line at 800-827-1000.

You can get free assistance with any V.A.-related question or problem by phone or in person through one of the V.A.'s Vet Centers, which are located in every state. You can also get assistance by contacting the V.A.'s Veterans Benefits Administration office nearest you. The V.A. also has a toll-free telephone help line at 800-827-1000.

Joseph L. Matthews

Joseph Matthews is an attorney and the author of numerous books, including Social Security, Medicare, and Government Pensions, Long-Term Care: How to Plan and Pay for It; How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim; and The Lawyer Who Blew up His Desk. See full bio