OKLAHOMA CITY - After retiring from the military, many veterans forget about the benefits available to them.
Experts say there are a large number of VA burial and memorial benefits that are available to veterans when they die a non-service related death.
To be eligible, the only requirement is that their discharge from the military must have been under conditions other than dishonorable, which will need to be verified.
To prove that, you just need a copy of your DD Form 214 "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty," which you can acquire online.
Other benefits that are available to veterans are as follows:
- National and State Cemetery Benefits- If you are eligible and want to be buried in one of the 131 national or 93 state VA cemeteries, the VA benefits provided at no cost to the family include a gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual gravesite care, a government headstone, a United States burial flag and a Presidential memorial certificate.
National cemetery burial benefits are also available to spouses and dependents of veterans.
Funeral or cremation arrangements and costs are not taken care of by the VA. They are the responsibility of the veteran's family.
- Private Cemetery Benefits - If you want to be buried in a private cemetery, the benefits available include a free government headstone, or a medallion that can be affixed to a privately purchased headstone or marker, a burial flag and a Presidential memorial certificate.
There are no benefits offered to spouses and dependents that are buried in private cemeteries.
- Military Funeral Honors - All eligible veterans buried in either a national or private cemetery may receive a military funeral honors ceremony. This includes folding and presenting the U.S. burial flag to the veteran's survivors and the playing of Taps, performed by two or more uniformed military members.
Depending on what you want, certain forms may need to be completed. For a complete rundown of benefits and forms, call 800-827-1000 or visit the website.
- Burial Allowances - Some veterans may also qualify for a $734 burial and funeral expense allowance if the veteran is hospitalized by the VA at the time of death or $300 if not hospitalized. Also, a $734 plot-interment allowance is available to those who choose to be buried in a private cemetery.
To apply for the allowances, family members need to fill out VA Form 21-530 "Application for Burial Benefits." Also, attach a copy of your discharge documents, death certificate, funeral and burial bills.