The federal government will help with burial of military veterans, but there are conditions and qualifications that must be met. The first and most important condition is that the veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged.
The most direct aid for veterans is burial in one of the 155 national military cemeteries or one of the 119 additional military cemeteries administered by states, territories or tribal organizations. While many families prefer to inter loved ones close to home, it is important to note that 94% of veterans have a burial option in a military cemetery within 75 miles of home. In cemeteries administered by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (the VA), a veteran is entitled to a plot, the opening and closing of the grave, a grave liner, perpetual care of grave and a headstone or marker. Cremated remains may be interred in an above-ground vault. A veteran’s spouse and minor children are also eligible for burial in a VA cemetery.
Regardless of circumstances, a veteran is entitled to a headstone or other marker, an American flag for the coffin, an honor guard, the playing of “Taps,” and a gun salute.
What Is Veteran Burial Allowance?
For those not choosing burial in a national military cemetery, there are allowances available for burial in a private cemetery. To qualify, the veteran must have been discharged honorably or with other non-dishonorable designation. Also, at least one of these criteria must apply: the veteran died as a result of a service-connected disability; the veteran died while getting VA care or traveling to or from a facility at VA expense; the veteran died while receiving a VA pension or compensation; the veteran died while eligible for a VA pension or compensation but instead received full military or disability pay.
If the veteran meets those criteria, the family is entitled to a $300 burial allowance and roughly $800 for a burial plot.
You may apply for such an allowance after paying for the burial. If approved, you will receive the allowance afterward.
Veteran Burial Allowance Eligibility
It is possible to apply for benefits while the veteran is still alive. Typically, however, it will be a deceased veteran’s family handling burial arrangements, including benefits available through the military. You may apply for a veteran’s benefits if you are:
- the veteran’s surviving spouse (including same-sex marriages), or
- the surviving partner from a legal union (a relationship made formal in a document issued by the state recognizing the union), or
- a surviving child of the veteran, or
- a parent of the veteran, or
- the official executor or administrator of the veteran’s estate.
Do All Veterans Get Free Burial?
All burial-related benefits are available to veterans who were discharged honorably, or with some other non-dishonorable designation. To apply for such benefits, you will need the veteran’s DD-214 form, which documents the details of their discharge. To acquire a copy of the DD-214 form, contact the National Personnel Records Center or the Veterans Benefits Administration.
All veterans are entitled to burial in one of the 155 national military cemeteries administered by the VA, or one of the 119 military cemeteries administered by states, territories or tribal organizations. A qualifying veteran is entitled to a plot, the opening and closing of the grave, a grave liner, perpetual care of the grave, and a headstone or other marker. You may also request an American flag to cover the casket, the playing of “Taps,” an honor guard and a gun salute. The spouses and minor children of veterans may also be eligible for burial in a military cemetery.
For those choosing burial in a non-military cemetery, it is possible to apply for a burial allowance. To qualify, along with a non-dishonorable discharge, at least one of these criteria must apply: The veteran died as a result of a service-connected disability; the veteran died while getting VA care or traveling to or from a facility at VA expense; the veteran died while receiving a VA pension or compensation; the veteran died while eligible for a VA pension or compensation but instead received full military or disability pay.
Veteran Family Member Burial Allowance
Burial in a national military cemetery is not meant to separate families for eternity. The spouses of veterans, as well as their minor children, are eligible to be buried along with their loved one. This is true whether the veteran outlives his family members or is already buried. The opening and closing of the grave, grave liner and perpetual care of the grave are included.
» More: Military Family Benefits
How Much Money Can You Get From Veteran Burial Allowance
The law providing for veteran burial allowances is very specific. For example, if a veteran’s death is service-connected, the maximum allowance is $2,000 if the veterans died on or after Sept. 11, 2001. Before that, the maximum is $1,500.
There is a schedule for non-service-connected deaths, based on the date of the veteran’s death. For the most recent deaths, those that occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2021, the maximum is a $300 burial allowance plus $828 for a burial plot. The amount paid for a burial plot varies depending on the date of the veteran’s death. In addition, there are larger allowances for deaths that occur inside VA hospitals or facilities.
How to Apply For Veteran Burial Allowance
The most convenient way to navigate the veteran burial allowance application is online. Signing into the VA website will expedite the process of applying.
It is also possible to submit a paper application, but that is also easier with online assistance. Start by downloading VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Allowance. After filling it out, you can mail it to the Pension Management Center in your state or go to the closest regional benefit office and deliver the application in person.
Another option is to contact an accredited representative, who can walk you through the process.
What Documentation Do I Need To Apply For Veteran Burial Allowance?
Along with the application for veteran burial allowance, you must submit documents that allow the VA to proceed, First, you will need the veteran’s death certificate. In addition, send the veteran’s military discharge papers, DD214 or other official separation documents. To obtain copies of these documents, you may contact the National Personnel Records Center or the Veterans Benefits Administration.
Also submit any documents or receipts you have for the cost of transporting the veteran’s remains, plus a statement of account, preferably with the letterhead of the funeral director or cemetery owner who has the following information: the veteran’s name, the type of service or item purchased, and credits and the unpaid balance, if any.
Additional Resources for Veteran Burials
The National Cemetery Administration is a resource for a great deal of information about the VA, cemetery locations, headstones and gravesites.
One section of the larger site includes comprehensive information about veterans’ burial benefits.
About The Author
Phil Sheridan writes about military benefits for Military Money. Phil spent over 30 years learning about labor negotiations, salary caps, stadium negotiations and a lot of other finance-related matters as a reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and ESPN.
- 1. Kassraie, Aaron (2021, October 6) 7 Things You Didn’t Know About VA Burial Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/home-family/voices/veterans/info-2021/va-burial-benefits.html
- 2. N.A. (ND) Eligibility For Burial In A VA National Cemetery. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/burials-memorials/eligibility/
- 3. N.A. (ND) How To Apply For a Veterans Burial Allowance. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/burials-memorials/veterans-burial-allowance/
- 4. N.A. (ND) Pre-need eligibility for burial in a VA Cemetery. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/burials-memorials/pre-need-eligibility/
- 5. N.A. (ND) National Cemetery Administration. Retrieved from https://www.cem.va.gov/