A Planning Guide for the Surviving Family

One of the more difficult tasks a survivor may face after the death of a beloved Veteran is identifying, securing and completing the numerous claim forms to obtain VA survivors’ benefits. The anxiety and fear of the unknown — who to call, what to do, or where to go for help — can be a daunting experience.

To avoid such a situation, and to ensure that those who have proudly served our nation take advantage of all the benefits to which they are entitled, Veterans and their families are encouraged to organize their personal and military records as part of regular estate planning.

While your funeral director can assist you with the necessary paperwork, gathering and storing these important documents now will help ease the burden and be helpful to your family at the time of need.

Veterans of the United States armed forces may be eligible for a broad range of programs and services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions.

Reservists and National Guard members, as well as their spouses and dependent children, may also be eligible for VA burial and memorial benefits if they were entitled to retirement pay at the time of death, or would have been if they had been over age 60.

Click here to download the Planning Guide, a resource produced by: The New York State Tribute Foundation, Inc., an affiliate of the New York State Funeral Directors Association, Inc., in consultation with the Vietnam Veterans of America – New York State Council.

A Good Time to Review Veterans Benefits

In addition to many services for living veterans and their families, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or “VA,” offers certain benefits that you should know about before preplanning a veteran’s funeral or when arranging a veteran’s funeral at the time of death.  Discuss these important options with your family funeral director.

Burial benefits for eligible veterans and some dependents are available from the VA’s National Cemetery Administration.

They include a gravesite in any of the more than 100 national cemeteries, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a grave liner for casketed remains buried in a national cemetery, an American flag to drape over the casket and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Families who choose burial in a private cemetery may qualify for some VA reimbursement of burial expenses.

When considering burial in a private cemetery, it’s important to ask some questions before making a commitment:

  • If a “free” gravesite for the veteran is offered, ask if an additional gravesite must be purchased to qualify. If it is required, where is it located and what is the cost?
  • Are there any restrictions on the type of headstone or marker? If a free government marker will be used, is there any charge for a special base, placement and setting or care of a free marker?
  • Is a vault or grave liner required?

Before arranging for a burial in a private cemetery, know what you are receiving, what is required by the company and have the company put all this information in writing.

It’s wise to gather data relating to the veteran’s service (Military Discharge Certificate or Report of Separation, VA Claim Number and Social Security Number), as well as birth certificate and marriage history, and keep them together in a safe place that family members know about.

Your local County Veterans Service Agency and your family funeral director will give you information about what you will need to arrange an eligible veteran’s burial and how to claim any benefits that may be available to the veteran’s spouse and dependents.

For more information on veterans death benefits, call a VA Benefits Counselor at: 800.827.1000 or or visit the VA website.

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