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En español | All but two Veterans Affairs national cemeteries across the country have resumed committal and memorial services after they were forced to a halt in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"During the last 10 weeks, VA national cemeteries have continued performing our essential mission — to inter veterans and eligible family members,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a statement. “We believe we have a robust set of measures in place that will allow us to conduct committal and memorial services while protecting the health and safety of veterans, their families and our team members who serve them.”
The VA said it will contact families who were unable to hold services because of the pandemic and arrange for memorial services for their loved ones beginning in July. While military cemeteries remained open for interments and visitation during the pandemic, other services were temporarily suspended to meet safety and health guidelines.
The two national cemeteries that have yet to resume committal and memorial services, New York's Calverton and Long Island, are slated to restart June 22, if state and local guidance permits.
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Cemeteries will continue to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the number of individuals attending services, practicing physical distancing between individuals not from the same household, ensuring all attendees and employees wear face masks, encouraging frequent use of hand sanitizer and asking sick individuals to stay home. The number of people who are permitted to attend will vary based on state and local guidelines for gatherings. However, families can continue to choose direct interment and opt for a memorial service later when all restrictions have been lifted.
Who can be buried in a VA national cemetery?
Veterans, service members, spouses and dependents may qualify for burial benefits if they meet one of the following requirements:
- A veteran who didn't receive a dishonorable discharge
- A service member who died while on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty for training
- The spouse or minor child of a veteran, even if the veteran died first
- In some cases, the unmarried adult dependent child of a veteran
Other eligibility information can be found on the VA's website.
The VA can make a “pre-need” determination of eligibility for VA burial and memorial benefits before death. This can eliminate the need for family members to search for documentation at the time of death. Veterans and family members can apply here.
If a VA national, state or tribal veteran's cemetery is selected as the final resting place, a veteran will receive the following: gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, grave liner and perpetual care of the gravesite. Also included are memorial benefits such as a headstone, marker or cover for a columbarium niche.
If a private cemetery is chosen, a government-furnished headstone, marker or cover can be provided free of charge.