Certain veterans and their dependents are eligible for burial benefits through VA based on a number of criteria. There are two types of burial benefits: the burial itself, and compensation for the costs of the burial. Both have specific eligibility requirements and are handled by two different entities within VA: the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) and Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
VA Burial Benefits through the National Cemetery Administration (NCA)
What Is the National Cemetery Administration (NCA)?
The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) is a department within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that maintains 136 national cemeteries in 40 states. They also handle burial benefits for veterans and their spouses/dependents.
According to their website, the NCA handles “opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a Government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family.” However, they DO NOT provide funeral or cremation arrangements. These must be made by the family, or whoever is planning the funeral, and these costs will not be paid for by the NCA.
In the event that a veteran wishes to be buried in a private cemetery, not one managed by the NCA, VA will still provide a headstone, marker, or medallion; burial flag; and Presidential Memorial Certificate.
The NCA also offers burial benefits for spouses and dependents, including “burial with the Veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependent’s name and date of birth and death will be inscribed on the Veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family.” For cases of spouses or dependents that pass away before the veteran, they are still able to receive burial benefits.
Eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery is handled by the National Cemetery Scheduling Office, and a determination of eligibility will only be made after a veteran requests a burial.
Veterans and Armed Forces Members
According to NCA’s website, the following are eligible for burial at a VA national cemetery:
- Any United States Armed Forces member who dies on active duty is eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery.
- “Any Veteran who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.”
- For those with service beginning after September 7, 1980 as an enlisted person, or after October 16, 1981 as an officer must have a minimum of 24 consecutive months of duty, or have completed the full period in which they were called to active duty.
- A citizen of the United States who served in the Armed Forces of a government allied with the U.S. in a war that the U.S. is engaged in, or may be engaged in, who was discharged honorably or by death.
Spouses and Dependents
According to the NCA website, spouses and dependents that fall into the below categories are eligible for interment:
- “The spouse, surviving spouse or dependent of an eligible Veteran or member of the Armed Forces” can be eligible for burial in a national cemetery, even if the veteran is not buried in a national cemetery.
- “The surviving spouse of an eligible Veteran” who remarried to a non-Veteran and “whose death occurred on or after January 1, 2000.”
- A minor child of an eligible Veteran. A minor child is one that:
- Under 21 years old
- Under 23 years old and “pursuing a full-time course of instruction at an approved educational institution.”
- An adult child of an eligible veteran who is unmarried.
- An unmarried adult child is one that “became permanently physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support before reaching 21 years of age, or before reaching 23 years of age if pursuing a full-time course of instruction at an approved educational institution.”
Check out the NCA’s website for eligibility requirements for Reserves, Commissioned Officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Health Service, World War II Merchant Mariners, the Philippine Armed Forces, and parents of an eligible Veteran.
Can Veterans Be Buried in Arlington National Cemetery?
Yes, however their eligibility criteria is different from that of the NCA. Arlington National Cemetery is controlled by the U.S. Department of the Army, a department within the Department of Defense. According to Arlington National Cemetery’s website, the “eligibility for in-ground burial at Arlington National Cemetery is the most stringent of all U.S. national cemeteries.” However, above-ground burials may be less difficult to receive.
Burial Benefits through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
What Is the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)?
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is the arm of VA that handles veterans’ compensation. This part of VA is separate from the NCA, and does not manage cemeteries or burial arrangements. However, they do offer certain burial benefits by way of compensation.
The VBA offers a benefit called a “Burial and Plot Interment Allowance,” a flat rate of compensation for an eligible veteran’s burial and funeral costs. The amount varies depending on several factors, such as whether the veteran’s death was service-connected or non-service-connected, as well as if the veteran was hospitalized by VA at the time of their death. This VA fact sheet has more information on compensation amounts.
According to VA’s website, for a veteran’s survivors to be eligible for burial benefits, a veteran must have received a discharge that is under conditions other than dishonorable, and meet at least one of the following conditions:
- The Veteran’s death was the result of service-connected disability
- The Veteran was receiving VA disability compensation or pension at the time of their death; OR was entitled to receive VA disability or pension but instead received their full military retirement or disability pay
- The Veteran’s death occurred while they were hospitalized by VA, or while they were receiving care at a non-VA facility under VA contract
- “The Veteran died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care”
- “The Veteran had an original claim or reopened claim for VA compensation or pension pending at the time of death and would have been entitled to benefits from a date prior to the date of death”
- The Veteran died while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home on or after October 9, 1996
Survivors of the Veteran
According to VA’s website, the following are eligible to receive burial benefits:
- The Veteran’s surviving spouse
- VA is supposed to automatically pay burial benefits to surviving spouses once it is notified of the Veteran’s death.
- “The survivor of a legal union between the deceased Veteran and the survivor”
- According to VA, a “legal union means a formal relationship between the deceased and the survivor that existed on the date of the Veteran’s death” and is recognized by the State.
- A child of the Veteran, regardless of their age
- The parents or surviving parent of the Veteran
- “The executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased Veteran”