The Department of Defense provides burial services in VA cemeteries with military funeral honors, upon request for all eligible veterans.
According to the VA official site, these burial honors include the playing of Taps plus the folding and presentation of a United States burial flag. These honors and burial privileges are not automatic. They must be requested.
#5. Not All Veterans Are Eligible for Military Funeral Honors or Burial in A VA Cemetery
Who may receive VA military funeral honors and be buried in a VA cemetery?
- Those who died while on active duty or in the Selected Reserve
- Former military members, active duty or Selected Reserve, with military discharges characterized as “under other than dishonorable conditions”
- Former military members with a minimum of one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.
VA burial rules state that the veteran’s discharge will determine whether they may be buried in a VA cemetery. When it comes to funeral honors, those NOT eligible include the following:
- Those separated from military service under dishonorable conditions or whose character of service results in a bar to veteran’s benefits
- Anyone ordered to report to an induction station, but was not actually inducted into military service
- Those discharged from the Selected Reserve prior to completing one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service for reasons other than a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty
- Those convicted of a Federal capital crime and whose conviction is final (other than a person whose sentence was commuted by the President)
- Anyone convicted of a State capital crime and whose conviction is final (other than a person whose sentence was commuted by the Governor of a State)
#4: Burial in A VA Cemetery Cannot Be Pre-Arranged
To schedule burial in a VA cemetery, the next-of-kin must contact the VA with the veteran’s discharge paperwork to determine eligibility. They will work with a funeral home to arrange burial in the approved VA cemetery.
While it is true that you cannot pre-arrange burial benefits in a VA cemetery, it IS possible to pre-determine the veteran’s eligibility for VA burial benefits on a first come, first served basis by contacting:
National Cemetery Scheduling Office
P.O. Box 510543
St. Louis, MO 63151
Fax (toll-free): 1-855-840-8299
When contacting the scheduling office, VA Form 40-1007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery is required along with copies of supporting documentation including discharge paperwork such as the DD Form 214.
The VA does not accept pre-need applications by e-mail. They advise applicants with pre-need eligibility determination that “time of need” (have a planned funeral) applicants have first priority.
Those seeking verification of eligibility on a pre-need basis should know that the Department of Veterans Affairs provides a written eligibility determination letter. Family members should save this letter and all supporting documents to provide when the day of need arrives.
In situations where the next-of-kin change their minds about burial in a VA cemetery, VA policy states, “Submission of a pre-need burial eligibility application does not obligate the Veteran or family member to burial in a VA national cemetery.”
#3: The Funeral Home Director Must Request Military Funeral Honors and VA Cemetery Interment on Behalf of The Family
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site states that it’s the funeral director’s job to request military honors and work with the family to arrange burial in a VA cemetery. The VA Cemetery Administration “can also assist with arranging military funeral honors at VA national cemeteries.”
Did you know that veteran service organizations (VSO) may help in providing these military honors? Depending on the organization you may be able to have the veteran’s favorite VSO take part in the ceremonies.
#2: Some Situations May Require Next-Of-Kin to Contact A VA National Cemetery Directly
There are situations where contacting a VA national cemetery directly, as opposed to working via a funeral director, may be required. They include the following:
- Active duty interment scheduling
- Interment cancellation
- Interment rescheduling
- Change to information initially provided to Scheduling Office
- Request for disinterment and/or relocation to another national cemetery
#1: How to Schedule Burial in A VA Cemetery on the Time of Need
The first step is to call the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration at 1-800-535-1117. Do not call this number without the required supporting documentation ready to be faxed or otherwise submitted as directed during your call. That documentation includes but may not be limited to:
- VA Cemetery of choice
- Whether this is the first interment or a “subsequent interment” in cases where the veteran is being re-buried in a different facility
- If subsequent interment, who is already interred, section and site number (if known)
- The full name of the deceased, plus gender, SSN, date of death, date of birth, etc.
- Funeral director contact information
- Next of kin contact information
- County and ZIP code at 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 marital status of spouse at time of death)
- Casket size/liner size/urn size/urn vault size
- Military Honors requested
- Veteran status of surviving spouse where applicable
You may be required to e-mail or fax supporting documentation including copies of discharge paperwork and other records. Send these materials to 1-866-900-6417 (fax) or scan and email digital files to [email protected].
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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