The average funeral costs somewhere between $7,000 and $9,000 when accounting for all costs. Sadly, at some point in our lives, this will become relevant to all of us. However, as a military member or veteran, you are eligible for military burial benefits when you pass away. In some cases, your spouse or dependents may also be eligible for burial benefits.
In true military or VA fashion, you will need to meet certain eligibility criteria.
Most of this following info will pertain to a service member who will be buried in one of the 136 National Cemeteries. You can also work with a funeral home director to coordinate military burial benefits and military funeral honors if you choose to be buried in a private cemetery.
Who is Entitled to Military Burial Benefits?
Military burial benefits are available to military members or veterans who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. In general, military funeral honors and burial benefits are available to all active duty veterans, provided they meet service requirements. Members who served in the Guard and Reserves may be required to meet different service criteria.
Finally, there are minimum service requirements for enlisted members who served after September 7, 1980, and officers who served after October 16, 1981. These members must have served for a minimum of 24 continuous months or the full period for which the person was called to active duty (as in the case of a Reservist called to active duty for a limited duration).
Active Duty Military
- If you die on active duty, you are eligible.
- Discharged with an other than dishonorable discharge* -OR-
- Died serving during wartime
*Undesirable, bad conduct, and any other type of discharge other than honorable may or may not qualify the individual for Veterans benefits, depending upon a determination made by a VA Regional Office. Cases presenting multiple discharges of varying character are also referred for adjudication to a VA Regional Office.
National Guard Or Reserves
Members of Reserve and National Guard components are eligible for military burial benefits if they:
- Have met minimum active duty service requirements, as applicable by law, and who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable are also eligible provided they were called to active duty and served the full term of service.
- Are retired members of the Guard or Reserves who are eligible to collect retirement after age 60
- Were a member of the Guard or Reserves and died while in the line of duty
Note: A former member of the Guard or Reserves is ineligible if their only active duty military service is active duty for training or inactive duty training in the National Guard or Reserve Component unless the individual meets the above eligibility criteria.
Spouses And Dependents
- Spouse of a military member, retiree, or veteran who is eligible for military burial benefits
- Unmarried children under age 21
- Unmarried children under age 23, if attending college
- Unmarried adult child with a special situation
- Biological or adoptive parents who die after October 13, 2010 -AND-
- Child was a servicemember who died after October 7, 2001 -AND-
- Died while in the line of duty -AND-
- Is buried in a national cemetery -AND-
- Has no spouse or children
- Child was a servicemember who died after October 7, 2001 -AND-
Other Persons Who May Be Eligible for Military Burial Benefits:
- Commissioned Officers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Public Health Service
- World War II Merchant Mariners
- The Philippine Armed Forces (WWII era, and just after WWII).
You can see the specifics in more detail on the VA’s Website.
Who Is Ineligible to for Military Burial Benefits:
- Former Spouses
- Other Family Members
- Disqualifying Characters of Discharge – A person whose only separation from the Armed Forces was under dishonorable conditions or whose character of service results in a bar to Veterans benefits. This can be found on the veteran’s DD Form 214.
- Persons Found Guilty of a Capital Crime
- Persons convicted of Certain Sex Offenses
- Persons whose only military service was Active or Inactive Duty for Training
Which Burial Benefits Are Provided?
The VA provides the following military burial benefits:
- Headstone Marker
- Presidential Memorial Certificate
- Military Burial Flag
- Military Funeral Honors
- Burial and Plot Allowance
- Opening And Closing Of The Grave
- Perpetual Care Of The Gravesite
Headstone – Marker – Medallion
- Government-furnished headstone or markers may be provided for eligible Vet who died after November 1, 1990
- Can be for a private or national cemetery
Presidential Memorial Certificate
- Signed certificate by the current President to honor the Veterans memory
- Must apply using VA Form 40-0247
- Discharged with other than dishonorable -AND-
- Died on active duty after May 27, 1941 -OR-
- Served after January 31, 1955 -OR-
- Served one enlistment and released before June 27, 1950 -OR-
- Certain former members of the Selected Reserves
Military Funeral Honors
- Public law requires all eligible Veterans receive a military funeral honors ceremony
Burial And Plot Allowance
- This is only really available to a Veteran who is receiving a VA pension or care
- The VA would pay as little as $300 and as much as $2,000
- Must apply using VA Form 21P-530
- You can see the Burial and Plot Allowance here
How to Apply for Military Burial Benefits
You first need to:
Call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office between 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Central Time at 1-800-535-1117 with the following information:
- Cemetery of choice
- First or subsequent burial (Veteran or dependent already buried)
- If subsequent interment, who is already interred, section and site number (if known)
- Decedent’s full name, gender, SSN, date of death, date of birth and relationship (Veteran or dependent)
- Contact Info (funeral director’s name as well as the name, address, and E-mail address of the funeral home)
- Next of kin information (name, relationship to the deceased, SSN, phone number, address)
- Type of religious emblem for the headstone (if known)
- Did the decedent reside within 75 miles of the requested cemetery?
- ZIP code of decedent at the time of death
- County of the decedent at the time of death
- Type of burial (casket or cremation)
- Marital status of deceased (if Veteran is buried in a private cemetery, must provide documentation of the marital status of the spouse at the time of death)
- Casket size/liner size/urn size/urn vault size
- Is surviving spouse a Veteran?
- Any disabled children for future interment (must provide name and date of birth). If requesting immediate interment (must provide marital status, doctor’s statement stating the type of illness, date of onset of illness and capability of self-support).
- Military Honors requested
The VA has in-depth info on your Burial Benefits here.