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Veteran Benefits Explained

Posted on May 18, 2016
Veterans who have died are often entitled to a number of benefits, but it can be confusing for the family. The benefits allotted to the family of a veteran must be applied for, and it can often cause some apprehension with the family.

Luckily, the funeral home or the local veteran affairs office can help you with most of the paperwork. Below is a short list of a few things that family members can claim if your loved one was a member of the service and was discharged any other than dishonorably. 

Military Honors
The Department of Defense will provide military rites with a copy of the veteran’s DD-214 discharge papers. There are a number of ways that the organization can honor a loved one: flag folding, playing of Taps, reading of the folds of the flag, or a gun salute. The military will do this for any qualified veteran.  It is completely free, and it is a great way to honor your loved one. 

The funeral home may also arrange for local veterans to be present at the military honors, and the family typically will provide a donation to the group to be included in the service.

Marker or Medallion
For those eligible veterans, the government will provide a marker for the grave site at no cost to the family. For those members who have already purchased a marker, the family can apply for a medallion or a niche marker to be placed on the headstone. While the markers and medallions are free, the installation of those items will be a cost the family will be responsible for paying.  

So who is eligible for a marker or medallion? According to VA Form 40-1330: Any deceased Veteran discharged under honorable conditions and any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who dies on active duty. A deceased Veteran discharged under conditions other than honorable may also be eligible. A copy of the deceased Veteran’s discharge certificate (DD Form 214 or equivalent) or a copy of other official document(s) establishing qualifying military service must be attached. Do not send original documents; they will not be returned. Service after September 7, 1980, must be for a minimum of 24 months continuous active duty or be completed under special circumstances, e.g., death on active duty. Persons who have only limited active duty service for training while in the National Guard or Reserves are not eligible unless there are special circumstances, e.g., death while on active duty, or as a result of training. Reservists and National Guard members who, at time of death, were entitled to retired pay, or would have been entitled, but for being under the age of 60, are eligible; a copy of the Reserve Retirement Eligibility Benefits Letter must accompany the claim.  Reservists called to active duty other than training and National Guard members who are Federalized and who serve for the period called are eligible. Service prior to World War I requires detailed documentation, e.g., muster rolls, extracts from State files, military or State organization where served, pension or land warrant, etc.

United States Burial Flag
Once you provide the funeral home with a DD-214 and the veteran meets the criteria, they will be able to fill out a flag application for you and receive one flag from the local post office. The flag may be draped across the casket during the service. It is typically given to the next of kin.  

Presidential Memorial Certificate
This program began in March of 1962 with President John F. Kennedy and has been effect since.  

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs: “A Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) is a gold-embossed paper certificate bearing the official signature of the President of the United States. It honors the memory of a deceased honorably discharged Veteran and expresses the country’s grateful recognition of his or her service in the Armed Forces.” 

This certificate is made available to the next of kin of an honorably discharged veteran and multiple copies may be requested. The funeral home can fill out the paperwork for a certificate, if requested. 

Burial Allowances
The exact amount a family may be eligible to receive from the government for burial allowances is much more complicated than other military benefits. To see if you might be eligible, visit: http://www.cem.va.gov/burial_benefits/.  

The funeral home can help families fill out a burial allowances form, or if you live in Black Hawk County, the local veteran’s affairs office is happy to help with all veteran benefits.  

Burial in a National Cemetery
At this time, there are 134 national cemeteries that veterans can be buried in. To do so, a request must be made through the National Cemetery Scheduling Office. Again, your funeral home can help get the process started, or possibly your local VA office. To find out more about eligibility, visit: http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/burial_benefits/eligible.asp.

Local Cemetery Benefits
Sometimes, local cemeteries may provide a discounted or free space at the cemetery. Many cemeteries do not offer this, but your funeral director can tell you who may offer those discounts. 

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