Better to start early on burial benefits for veterans

Alaska Older Veterans Report

To all, death must come. The time to get your affairs in order is now and not impose another stressful duty on your loved ones left behind. Some of the items on your list should include the following: a living will, a last will and testament, your wishes for burial and access to your banking account by your executor to pay for the expenses.

This article will focus on burial in an Alaska’s two national cemeteries, Fort Richardson and Sitka.

As in any quest for your veteran’s benefits, locate and make copies of your DD 214. The following excerpts from the regulations should be applicable to all national cemeteries.

Effective July 7, 2014, VA is changing its monetary burial benefits regulations to simplify the program and pay eligible survivors more quickly and efficiently. These regulations will authorize VA to pay, without a written application, most eligible surviving spouses basic monetary burial benefits at the maximum amount authorized in law through automated systems rather than reimbursing them for actual costs incurred.

Under the current regulations, VA pays for burial and funeral expenses on a reimbursement basis, which requires survivors to submit receipts for relatively small one-time payments that VA generally pays at the maximum amount permitted by law.

The new burial regulations will permit VA to pay, at a flat rate, burial and plot or interment allowances thereby enabling VA to automate payment of burial benefits to most eligible surviving spouses and more efficiently process other burial benefit claims.

The burial allowance for a non-service-connected death is $300, and $2,000 for a death connected to military service.

Benefit for service-related death

VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses for deaths on or after Sept. 11, 2001, or up to $1,500 for deaths prior to Sept. 11, 2001. If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased may be reimbursed.

Non-service-related death

VA will pay up to $749 toward burial and funeral expenses for deaths on or after Oct. 1, 2016 (if hospitalized by VA at time of death), or $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death), and a $749 plot-interment allowance (if not buried in a national cemetery). For deaths on or after Dec. 1, 2001, but before Oct. 1, 2011, VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance. For deaths on or after April 1, 1988 but before October 1, 2011, VA will pay $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (for veterans hospitalized by VA at the time of death).

An annual increase in burial and plot allowances for deaths occurring after Oct. 1, 2011 begins in fiscal year 2013 based on the Consumer Price Index for the preceding 12-month period. 

Eligibility requirements

You paid for a veteran’s burial or funeral, AND

You have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased veteran’s employer, AND

The veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, AND

The veteran died because of a service-related disability, OR

The veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR

The veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay, OR

The veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR

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, OR

The veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date or death, OR

The veteran died on or after Oct. 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

Note: VA does not pay burial benefits if the deceased:

Died during active military service, OR

Was a member of Congress who died while holding office, OR

Was a federal prisoner

Evidence requirements:

Acceptable proof of death as specified in 38 CFR 3.211., AND

Receipted bills that show that you made payment in whole or part, OR

A statement of account, preferably on the printed billhead of the funeral director or cemetery owner. The statement of account must show:

The name of the deceased veteran for whom the services and merchandise were furnished, AND

The nature and cost of the services and merchandise, AND

All credits, AND

The amount of the unpaid balance, if any

How to apply

Complete and submit a VA Form 21-530, Application for Burial Allowance. You can find an office on our Facility Locator page at or go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you.

Let’s hope that in the distant future, when the time has come for you to depart arrives, your affairs are in order and your wishes are known.

For more information on how to apply visit http://www.benefits/

Mike Dryden is a retired Army major and current Older Persons Action Group, Inc. board member.