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VA Eases Burial Process

-- Funerals can be expensive. But the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs say the cost can be lessened if the deceased served in the military or was a family member of a veteran.

 The VA is responsible for verifying eligibility for burials in a national cemetery and offers a number of burial benefits  for enlisted, retired and family members.
There are two VA national cemeteries within the United States administered by the Department of Interior:
Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Tennessee.

The Arlington National Cemetery is under the Jurisdiction of the Army. "Veterans, service members, spouses and minor children are eligible to be buried within the national cemeteries," Ed Threat, VA counselor said.

"Any U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of an allied government during wartime and adult children who are incapable of supporting themselves due to a physical or mental disability may also be buried there."

"People think that you can only be a veteran if you've served in a war," according to Gilbert Hernandez, director of marketing of the VA Long Beach Medical Center.

"That's not true. As long as you served for 24 months and left with an other-than-dishonorable discharge, you are considered a veteran."

Gravesites cannot be reserved and a request must be entered at the time of death. To request a site, contact the national cemetery of choice with the following information about the deceased: Full name and military rank, branch of service, social security number, service number, date and place of birth, date and place of death, date of retirement or last separation from active duty and a copy of any military separation documents (DD214).

"When we process a deceased vet, it is very quick and precise. The family comes in with the chaplain or priest, the vet moves from the morgue to the mortuary and everything gets covered," Hernandez said.

A VA national cemetery burial includes the gravesite, a headstone or marker, opening and closing of the grave and perpetual care. They do not provide military honors but make referrals to military units and volunteer groups.

The VA also provides presidential memorial certificates that honor deceased veterans with honorable discharges, and burial flags that drape the casket of a veteran.

A $1,500 burial allowance is paid if the veteran's death is service-connected, and a $300 allowance goes to veterans who were entitled to receive a pension or compensation.

If a veteran is going to be buried in a cemetery not under U.S. government jurisdiction, a $150 plot allowance is given. There is no limit for filing reimbursement claims for any of the allowances.

When buried in a cemetery not affiliated with the VA a headstone or marker is provided but the placement is not paid for.

"Although the VA covers some things, there is a lot that goes into a funeral and it can become costly. People should be aware of that," Hernandez said.

Some questions Threat advises asking when using a private cemetery are the following:

 - If responding to a 'free' gravesite for veterans, is there arequirement to purchase an additional site?

 - What type of trust fund does the cemetery have to
protect buyers?

 - Are there restrictions on the type of headstone or marker that can be used to mark the grave?

 - Does the cemetery require a special marker base to be purchased prior to ordering a free government marker?
 - If so, is it more costly than a private marker?
 For more information on VA burial benefits, call (800) 827-1000.


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