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Veterans' Burial Benefits: A Comprehensive Guide

Explore our comprehensive guide to Veterans Burial Benefits and learn how the U.S. government honors the service of veterans with funeral and burial supports. This guide covers eligibility, VA burial allowances, military honors, and more, providing essential information to help alleviate the financial and emotional burdens of planning a veteran's funeral.

If you or your loved one served as a veteran, you're probably entitled to certain funeral benefits. The federal government offers these benefits to veterans and their families as a gesture of gratitude for their service to the nation, aiming to alleviate the financial burden of funeral expenses. However, many U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits are not automatic — you must apply for them. 

Understanding these benefits is important because it can save money when planning funeral arrangements for a veteran or qualifying family member. You should also receive the proper military awards and recognition as a former member, spouse, child, or dependent. 

This guide highlights the most recent VA burial and other benefits. A reputable funeral home or cremation provider can help you obtain these benefits, arrange for grave markers and honor guards, and facilitate transportation and burial in a national veterans cemetery. 

Historic VA Benefit Boost

Every year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) office adjusts the amount of aid offered to help keep up with the cost of living. Recently, the government passed the Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2023 with an 8.7 percent increase, the highest since 1993. This bi-partisan bill is the most significant VA survivor benefit boost in 30 years, significantly increasing VA disability, survivor, and burial benefits.

VA Burial Allowance Increases

Qualifying family members may apply for a burial allowance within two years of a non-service-connected death. There is no time limit for filing for service-connected transportation or burial, plot, and interment allowance.

The VA gives qualified veterans or their eligible family members a financial break on burial, funeral, and cremation costs. Some of these benefits include:

  • An allowance for burial, funeral, or cremation costs
  • An allowance for the internment, plot, or grave marker
  • Transportation reimbursement for transporting the remains to a final resting place

Burial Allowance

The VA provides a burial and funeral expense allowance, with a plot-interment allowance available under certain conditions.

  • Burial allowance amounts for a service-connected death (after 9/2001): $2,000
  • Burial allowance amounts for a non-service-connected death (after 10/2023): $948 burial allowance and $948 for a plot

Expanded Eligibility for VA Burial Transportation Money

More military families now qualify for the VA burial transportation allowance. The VA pays to transport a veteran’s remains from the place of death to the location of burial if the following is true:

  • The veteran’s date of death is after January 5, 2023
  • Death and burial occur within a state
  • Veteran meets any of the following:
  • The veteran’s remains are unclaimed
  • At the time of death, the veteran received VA disability compensation, military retired pay in place of disability compensation, or VA Pension (also called Non-Service-Connected Pension)

Transportation benefits for death while in VA care are always paid if the veteran dies in a VA Medical facility or another facility approved under VA expense.

If you think you might be eligible for benefits, contact the VA or a funeral provider in your area with experience helping veterans.

What Are VA Death Benefits?

VA burial benefits (sometimes called death benefits) are designed to alleviate the financial burden of funeral expenses and provide a dignified memorial for deceased veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

These benefits include:

Burial in VA National Cemeteries

Eligible veterans, spouses, and dependents can be buried in a VA national cemetery, which includes the following at no cost to the family:

  • Gravesite or cremation niche
  • Opening and closing of the grave 
  • Perpetual care of grave or niche
  • A headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate signed by the current U.S. President 

Additional VA Benefits for a Veteran’s Funeral Service

You may also receive the following if you bury or inter a veteran other than those maintained by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA).

Burial Flags

A U.S. flag is provided to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran, recognizing their service. A military honor guard will fold this flag and present it to a family member after the funeral if desired. 

Headstones, Markers, and Medallions

The VA supplies headstones or markers for the graves of veterans worldwide and medallions to be affixed to privately purchased headstones. Currently, the VA pays $231 toward a headstone, marker, or medallion for burial or interment.

Presidential Memorial Certificates

A certificate signed by the current President is available to commemorate the deceased veteran's service.

Military Funeral Honors

Upon request, the Department of Defense provides military funeral honors, including folding and presenting the United States burial flag and playing "Taps." You may request an honor guard representing the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, or Coast Guard.

More VA Benefit Increases

Here are more benefit improvements for America’s veterans.

Stimulus Payments for Qualifying Veterans

Those with service-connected disabilities may qualify for a stimulus check of $3,600 to provide economic support to veterans and survivors with limited incomes. In April 2024, an additional stimulus of up to $1,400 per person will be sent to VA beneficiaries who typically do not file tax returns. 

Increased Eligibility for the PACT Act

In March 2024, the VA announced it was broadening health care eligibility for the PACT Act. Previously disqualified from healthcare benefits, the PACT Act expands VA health care and benefits for service members exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. 

Veterans who served in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any combat zone post-9/11, as well as those exposed to hazardous substances domestically, can secure lifelong access to VA's health care services without the immediate necessity of being ill or filing a claim.

Disability Compensation 

Disability compensation increased by 8.7 percent for the recent COLA guidelines. In dollar amounts, a disabled veteran with a ten percent VA rating (and no dependents) can expect about $13.28 more each month. A 100 percent disabled veteran with no dependents will receive $300 more monthly. 

Survivor Benefits

Spouses and dependent, unmarried children of qualifying veterans receive an 8.7 percent increase in survivorship pension benefits.

Who Is Eligible for VA Burial Benefits or Allowances?

The VA has complete eligibility information, but you likely qualify if the veteran’s separation from the service was not classified as dishonorable AND you meet all the following requirements. 

Suppose you're paying final expenses and won't get reimbursement from other sources, such as government agencies or the Veteran's employer. In that case, you might qualify for VA burial allowances to cover funeral and burial costs. 

Your Relationship with the Veteran

One of these must be true:

  • You are the Veteran's surviving spouse (including same-sex marriages).
  • You are the surviving partner of a recognized legal union.
  • You are a surviving child of the Veteran.
  • You are a parent of the veteran.
  • You are the executor or administrator of the veteran’s estate.

The Veteran's Service and Death

The veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge, and one of these circumstances must be true about how the veteran passed:

  • As a result of a service-connected disability (a disability related to service)
  • While getting VA care, either at a VA facility or at a facility contracted by VA
  • While traveling with proper authorization and at the VA’s expense, either to or from a facility for an examination, to receive treatment or care
  • With an original or reopened claim for VA compensation or pension pending at the time of death 
  • While receiving a VA pension or compensation
  • While eligible for a VA pension or compensation at their time of death, but instead received full military retirement or disability pay

OR, one of these statements must be true:

  • The veteran had been receiving a VA pension or compensation when they died
  • The Veteran had chosen to get military retired pay instead of compensation

The following individuals are ineligible for VA death benefits:

  • On active military duty
  • While serving as a member of Congress
  • While serving a federal prison sentence

Planning Ahead with VA Benefits

While VA burial benefits are only accessible post-mortem, veterans may find out in advance if they can be buried in a VA national cemetery. This is called a pre-need determination of eligibility, and it can help make the burial planning process more accessible for everyone at the time of need. 

Afterall is a collective of funeral homes, cemeteries, and direct cremation providers who proudly serve America’s veterans with compassionate, individualized care. Click here to find a veteran’s funeral advisor near you.