Up until the Civil War, soldiers were often buried where they fell on the battlefield, a practice that President Lincoln said was no way to treat those who had "borne the battle." In 1862, Congress authorized the purchase of land for the country's first 14 veteran cemeteries. Today, there are 155 national military cemeteries and 119 more state, territory or tribal-operated cemeteries.
Although these federal burial grounds are long-established, many are unaware of their eligibility and benefits. Here are some misconceptions related to VA burial benefits.
Burial benefits are not just for combat Veterans.
Most veterans who didn't receive a dishonorable discharge are eligible for a burial benefit. A spouse or minor child of a veteran is also eligible and, in some cases, an unmarried adult dependent child of a veteran.
Burial benefits are not limited to military cemeteries.
The VA provides a standard-issue headstone or marker to any veteran who wishes to be buried in a private cemetery, free of charge. Eligibility requirements are different for this benefit, but combat service is still not required. Spouses and dependents are ineligible for benefits at a nonmilitary burial ground.
Arrangements can be made in advance.
Since 2016, the VA has accepted a preneed determination of eligibility to become preapproved for burial at a VA national cemetery. Doing so makes the burial planning process much easier for families when a death occurs.
Advance planning isn't required.
When a veteran dies unexpectedly and hasn't filed their preneed eligibility, Quinn suggested that families call 800-535-1117. The NCA will discuss the next steps with the families and review the required documentation. If a family doesn't know where certain records are, the NCA will reach out to the National Personnel Records Center or the Veterans Benefits Administration. If a veteran didn't request to be buried in a military cemetery, eligibility could still be established to receive a marker at a private cemetery.
Some families might be eligible for expense reimbursements.
Depending on the veteran's service history and where a veteran is buried, the VA may pay a burial allowance or payment of up to $2,000 to help cover certain burial-related expenses.
National Military Cemetary burials include a memorial webpage.
Family members can visit the unique page of any veteran who's buried in a national cemetery and post photos, documents or memories in what is called the Veterans Legacy Memorial.
Burial benefits are underutilized.
In the fiscal year 2020, over 80,000 veterans were interred in the VA's national cemeteries, representing only about 14 percent of veterans who died during the same period, according to census data and other government estimates.