The Department of Veterans Affairs makes available several ways to honor deceased veterans. Here are the steps the family can take to receive those benefits.
- Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces and veterans who met minimum active service duty requirements and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. There is no charge for the grave plot, for its opening and closing, for a grave liner or for perpetual care. You should have the funeral home contact the national cemetery where you want interment.
- Contact your county veterans’ service office for help in obtaining burial benefits or go to www.cem.va.gov/.
- Apply for burial benefits by filling out VA Form 21-530, “Application for Burial Benefits.” You should attach a copy of the veteran’s military discharge document (DD 214 or equivalent), death certificate, funeral and burial bills. They should show that you have paid them in full. You may download the form at www.va.gov/vaforms/.
- Get a copy of the veteran’s service record. You can order this record, called the DD 214, at www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/.
- An American flag may be issued to drape over the coffin of an eligible veteran. After the funeral service, the flag will be given to the next of kin or close friend or associate. Obtain a flag by ordering at www.va.gov/vaforms/ (VA Form 21-2008), or contact your VA office or U.S. post office. Most funeral directors will be able to help you obtain a flag.
- The VA will furnish a government headstone or marker to be placed at the grave of a veteran at any cemetery around the world. Even if the grave was previously marked, you can obtain a government headstone. This service is provided for eligible veterans whether they are buried in a national cemetery or elsewhere.
- A headstone or marker is automatically furnished if burial is in a national cemetery. Otherwise, you must apply to the VA. The VA will ship the headstone or marker, without charge, to the person or firm designated on the application. The VA will also furnish a medallion, on request, to place on an existing headstone or marker that indicates that the person was a veteran. You must pay the cost of setting the headstone or marker or attaching the medallion.
- If possible, the following information concerning the deceased should be provided when the cemetery is first contacted:
- Full name and military rank
- Branch of service
- Social Security number
- Service number
- VA claim number, if applicable
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of death
- Date of retirement or last separation from active duty
- Copy of any military separation document, such as the Department of Defense Form 214 (DD 214). The discharge documents must specify active military duty and show that release from active duty was under other than dishonorable conditions.
- Apply for dependency and indemnity compensation benefits for survivors and dependents. Complete VA Form 21-534EZ, “Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits,” and mail it to your regional benefit office. You can locate your regional benefit office using the VA Facility Locator. You may also visit your regional benefit office and turn in your application for processing.