Over the years the biggest amount of confusion client families have is over Veteran’s Burial Benefits. What is covered? What is not covered? Who pays for the expenses?
The biggest confusion seems to be what are ‘Military Benefits‘ and ‘Military Honors‘
So first let’s talk about what is a Veteran: There are 2 primary types of Veterans 1) Retired Military and 2) Veteran Status. Retirees have served a full career in the military and have received a Honorable Discharge with Retirement Orders. Veterans are any person who has served in the military and received an Honorable Discharge.
Military Benefits are what the Veterans Administration (V.A.) provides to a Retiree or Veteran and their dependent (spouse and dependent children). Benefits include: Grave Space in a National or State Veterans Cemetery, Concrete Graveliner, Gravemarker and Opening and Closing of Gravespace. For Veterans and Retirees who are not buried in a National or State Veterans Cemetery a $300 burial plot allowance is available from the V.A., it should be noted this is a reimbursement and not a actual payment made at the time of death. A Veteran or Retiree is also eligible for a U.S. Flag.
Military Honors are the ceremonial presentation of Taps and folding and presentation of the U.S. Flag to the family or next of kin. Full Military Honors: Rifle Team, Pallbearers, Flag Fold and Bugler are reserved for Retirees and Active Duty Soldiers only. Military Honors: Two man flag fold team, and bugler are designated for Veteran Status. The biggest misnomer about military honors is the 21 gun salute, a 21 gun salute is only for a U.S. President or Ex-President.
So what does the VA pay for a Veteran Burial or Cremation? The answer here may astonish you. The VA pays $0 for a Veterans Burial or Cremation. The family bears all expense in the funeral and casket or cremation and urn cost. Truth!
The VA provides reimbursement for transportation expenses if a death occurs in a VA facility (hospital or nursing facility) and there are some reimbursements for Veterans with Service Related disabilities, but the important thing to understand is the VA is not paying any upfront cost.
Many families are never prepared for a death and many others are mislead by their loved one that the “Military is going to take care of everything when I die” this statement is farther from the truth. You need to be prepared to pay these expenses and then navigate the V.A. system to fill out the necessary forms to get the reimbursement and to add insult it will take up to a year to receive the benefit from the V.A.
My best advice: Make sure you plan now and make sure your loved ones know how they will pay for these expenses.