DoD and VA Benefits
Military Funerals: Eligibility
There are varying eligibility requirements for military funeral honors, burial in national and state veterans’ cemeteries, and burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
To be buried in a VA national or state cemetery, veterans must meet specific service and discharge requirements. To be buried in ground at Arlington National Cemetery, veterans must meet stricter requirements. Only those who meet the following criteria are allowed to be buried there:
- Servicemembers who died on active duty and their spouses or dependent children
- Retirees (with at least one day of active duty, not for training) and their spouses or dependent children
- Recipients of the Purple Heart or Silver Star and above
- Any honorably discharged POW who died after November 30, 1993
There is increased availability for veterans to have their cremains placed in Arlington’s columbarium or niche wall.
It is critical that survivors have access to the veteran’s Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (usually a DD Form 214). Veterans are encouraged to complete VA Form 40-10007, or the Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery, and retain the approval letter to ensure that a space is available for them in a national cemetery (excluding Arlington National Cemetery). If you do not have your loved one’s discharge papers, you may request them from the National Personnel Records Center of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
Military Funerals: Available Benefits
Veteran burial benefits are available to all eligible veterans at no cost. These include:
- A gravesite in any of VA’s 153 national cemeteries with available space
- Note that the VA guarantees that a veteran can be buried at a VA cemetery, but does not guarantee which cemetery.
- Opening and closing of the grave
- A government-furnished grave liner
- A government-furnished upright headstone, flat marker, or niche cover
- A burial flag
- A Presidential Memorial Certificate
- Perpetual care of the grave
Family members should note that any item or service obtained from a funeral home or cremation office will be at the family’s expense. The cost of funeral services, cremation services, and other funeral or burial products aside from the veteran funeral benefits listed are not provided by National Cemetery Administration or reimbursed by the VA.
Furthermore, families and survivors must arrange for the veteran’s funeral. Military honors (defined as at least two members of the U.S. Armed Forces; at least one member of the detail must be a representative from the deceased veteran’s branch of service) are arranged by the funeral director.
Military Funerals: Receiving Benefits
There is no time limit to file for a service-connected burial, plot, or interment allowance. To receive monetary burial benefits for a non-service connected death, however, survivors must file a claim within two years of the burial or cremation of the veteran. You may do so by applying at vets.gov and supplying the appropriate forms and documents to support your claim, such as:
- VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Benefits
- DD Form 214
- The veteran’s death certificate
- Receipted bills of payment for the cost of transporting a veteran’s remains for burial in a national cemetery
Currently, the VA will reimburse up to $2,000 to survivors of veterans who succumbed to service-connected deaths, or up to $807 for burial and $807 for a plot for those who succumbed to non-service-connected deaths. Note that the burial allowance for non-service-connected deaths is dependent on whether the veteran was awarded disability pay from the VA, the location of the veteran’s death, and where the veteran is buried. The VA may also provide reimbursement for transportation if the veteran was buried in a VA national cemetery.
If your loved one was a veteran and you need help requesting a burial allowance from the VA, you can contact our Veterans Services team by calling 888-298-4442 or sending an email to VSO@navymutual.org. A VSO representative can answer your questions about eligibility, help you submit a claim, and provide next steps.
Support and Benefits for Military Spouses
After a servicemember or veteran passes away, their survivors may have questions about whether they will continue to receive any benefits from the Department of Defense or the VA. Depending on the circumstances and military status of the deceased at their time of death, their survivors may be eligible for the following programs or benefits:
Casualty Assistance Calls Officer: Survivors of a U.S. servicemember who dies on active duty are assigned a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) to serve as their liaison with their branch of service. While not a subject matter expert, the CACO is trained to answer general questions, help survivors coordinate funeral arrangements, and help survivors apply for benefits and entitlements.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monthly benefit paid by the VA to the eligible survivors of servicemembers who died in the line of duty or of veterans who died as a result of a service-related injury or illness. DIC cannot be awarded with Survivors Pension (see below). If a spouse is eligible for both benefits, the VA will pay the higher of the two benefits.
Social Security: If a servicemember or veteran is eligible for Social Security benefits at their time of death, regardless of their age, their survivors may be entitled to monthly benefits on their behalf. For more information, contact the Social Security Administration directly at 800-772-1213 or online.
Survivor Benefit Plan: The Survivor Benefit Plan is a Department of Defense-subsidized, monthly income annuity provided to eligible beneficiaries when a servicemember or retiree passes away. Since military retirees receive a monthly pension for life – which stops upon their death – the Survivor Benefit Plan offers a way to preserve part of that monthly income for a beneficiary.
Participation is free and automatic while servicemembers are on active duty, but to continue the coverage into their retirement, servicemembers must elect to continue participating in the Survivor Benefit Plan by midnight on their last day of active duty. After the servicemember’s death, monthly payments to their designated beneficiary begin. If no coverage was elected, the servicemember’s retirement pay ends upon their death.
Participation in the plan is available to retirees of DoD services, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Public Health Service, and NOAA.
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance: Survivors of deceased veterans may be eligible for a monthly benefit payment to help cover the cost of college, graduate-level education, career training certificate courses, educational or career counseling, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training. Benefits last up to 36 months.
Survivors Pension: Survivors Pension is a monthly benefit paid by the VA to low-income, unmarried spouses of veterans who served at least 24 months of active military service with at least one day during a wartime period. Surviving children may also be eligible for Survivors Pension benefits. Note that this benefit is different from the Survivor Benefit Plan which provides a portion of the member’s retirement pension to their survivors. Survivors Pension cannot be awarded with DIC. If a spouse is eligible for both benefits, the VA will pay the higher of the two benefits.
There are federal programs available to the survivors of servicemembers who die during active duty, as well as for veterans who die from service-connected injuries or illnesses.
Survivors may be entitled to military survivor benefits after the passing of a servicemember or veteran. Navy Mutual representatives can help you understand and apply for those benefits.
Navy Mutual Aid Association’s Department of Education and Veteran Services does not endorse or favor any commercial financial product or service or promote the services of any specific financial institution. Further, Navy Mutual Aid Association and its accredited VSO Representatives do not charge or accept a fee or gratuity for representation services rendered to claimants before the Department of Veterans Affairs. 38 C.F.R. §14.628.