Final Expense

The National Association of Veterans & Families works hard to improve the quality of the lives of our Veterans and their Families. Still, eventually, we also have to prepare for when those we honor pass.

This section hopes to give you the information and assistance to make that easier for your family.

Honor Our Vets

Burial benefits gratefully offered to Veterans and eligible family members by the Federal government, through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Cemetery Administration (NCA), were earned by military service to our nation. These benefits are potentially worth thousands of dollars and are provided at no cost. This guide will help you if you need to make choices TODAY. It will also help if the time of need is many years away. Use this guide to learn about these benefits which may be taken in full or selectively.
Use this guide to plan in order to avoid rushed, agonizing decisions at the time of need.

Burial Benefits Overview

Burial in a national cemetery is available to eligible veterans, their spouses and dependent children. At no cost to the family, a national cemetery burial includes:

  • Cemetery plot of land
  • Vault and the opening and closing of the grave
  • Headstone or marker
  • Flag of the United States of America is available to drape the veteran’s casket or urn during the funeral
    and graveside services

Military Funeral Honors for the veteran’s services to our country include:

  1. Military folding of the burial flag by two military uniformed persons and flag
    presentation to the next of kin on behalf of a grateful nation
  2. The song of “Taps” performed by a bugler or played by a recording of a bugler’s
  3. Perpetual care as part of a national shrine
    Presidential Memorial Certificate honoring the veteran may be requested
  4. If a veteran is buried in a private cemetery anywhere in the world, VA will provide a headstone or marker.

Some veterans may be eligible for limited burial cost reimbursement. Funeral home directors usually arrange for these benefits on request.

National Burial Program Eligibility

National cemetery directors have primary responsibility for verifying eligibility for
burial in national cemeteries. VA regional offices may also assist. Call 1-800-827-
1000. Extensive information is also posted on NCA’s Internet Web site at
Active duty members who die while serving honorably are eligible.
Veterans who have served some active duty other than as a Reservist for training
and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions are eligible.
Reservists and National Guard members who, at the time of death, were entitled to
retired pay, or would have been entitled but for being under age 60 are eligible.
Certain National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Public
Health Service (PHS) officers and WWII Merchant Mariners are eligible.
Spouses and surviving spouses who meet eligibility requirements.
Dependent children under age 21; under 23 if still in school; or any age if disabled
while qualifying in one of the former categories are eligible.
The veteran’s discharge document (DD-214) showing periods (s) of active duty
service and characterization of discharge, together with the certificate of death, are all
you need in most cases to establish eligibility.

Eligibility requirements were developed over many years through legislation and regulations. This publication does not cover all possible situations, for or against establishing eligibility.

Burial Cost Reimbursement

Details for burial cost reimbursement up to $734.00 are outside the scope of this guide.
Types of benefits include partial burial expense reimbursement for service connected
or non-service connected deaths and plot allowances.
Partial burial expense reimbursement generally requires that a death be service related,
that the eligible person be receiving a VA pension or compensation, or that the death
take place while in VA care (VA hospital or VA nursing home).
Plot allowances, usually in the amount of $734.00 have separate eligibility requirements.
There is a two-year time limit to apply unless the death was service connected.
These benefits are administered by VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration. Additional
information may be found on the internet at
VA also provides a partial reimbursement if a private vault is used in place of a
government grave liner.

Private Cemetery

National Cemetery

  • HEADSTONE—VA will provide a choice of headstones and crosses in keeping with the cemetery’s limitations. Note– these are not huge monuments, but
  • Inscription– VA will pay for the inscription
  • FLAG– VA will provide American Flag for the ceremony.
    Certificate of appreciation of Veterans service from the President of the
    United States
  • HEADSTONE—VA will provide a choice of headstones and crosses in keeping
    with the cemetery limitations. Note– this are not huge monuments, but
  • Inscription– VA will pay for the inscription
  • FLAG– VA will provide American Flag for the ceremony.
    Certificate of appreciation of Veterans service from the President of the
    United States


    Opening and closing of the grave.
    What is covered:
    Private Cemetery
    National Cemetery
    • Transportation
    • Funeral Home Administrative costs
    • Associated cost for memorial or funeral
    • Caskets, Urns, etc.
    • Cremation, Embalming costs
    • Burial Plot
    • Other Miscellaneous cost
    What is not covered:
    • Transportation
    • Funeral Home Administrative costs
    • Associated cost for memorial or funeral
    • Caskets, Urns, etc.
    • Cremation, Embalming costs
    • Other Miscellaneous costs

Should you pre-pay for the funeral home or use a third-party commercial
final expense plan?

Funeral Home

Many people feel that if they pre-pay at a funeral home, their cost are locked in and
there will be no more costs. The funeral home is using life insurance to cover the costs
and the funeral home is the owner and beneficiary. Many times the costs have
increased and additional money is needed. Make sure that you get in writing that no
more costs will be incurred in the future, no matter how far in the future. Plans do vary
state by state. So check with your state to determine the laws there.

• Note –funeral home plans are typically not transferrable. If you pre-purchase a plan
from a funeral home in Florida and spend your last days with your daughter in
Michigan or New Jersey, etc. There will be a cost to ship your body back to Florida.
Third-party Commercial Final Expense Plans.

Using a 3rd party Final Expenses Plan enables you to pay funeral and associated cost
with the excess going to heirs.

Also, the plan is portable. It is not tied to any one funeral home. So if you pass away in
one state, the money can be used for a funeral home there and to transport your body
back to the state where you plan as your final resting place.

To find out more about Final expense plans for veterans and their spouses go to:

Pre-planning allows you to lessen burden on your
children. They don’t have to guess what you wanted!

Burial Flag

A flag of the United States of America (burial flag), made of cotton, is available
to drape the veteran’s casket or an urn during the funeral or graveside service.

The flag is folded by two uniformed persons and presented at the conclusion of the funeral or graveside
service to the next of kin on behalf of a grateful nation for the services of the veteran.
Flags may be donated to a national cemetery for use in their “Avenue of Flags” display on designated

The VA’s Veteran Benefits Administration administers the burial flag program.

Funeral Home directors usually obtain the flag for the veteran’s family. They may also be obtained

From most U.S. Post Offices and V.A. regional offices.
The necessary form is VA Form 21-2008 (Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes).
Details, including a link to the form, are on the NCA’s website at

Presidential Memorial Certificate

A Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) is an engraved paper certificate that honors the memory
of honorably discharged deceased veterans. Over 511,000 Presidential Memorial Certificates were issued
last year.
Next of kin, other relatives, and friends may request them. There is no time limit for requesting the

To obtain the application for PMC (VA form 40-0247) order form online, visit this website:

Requests should include a copy, not the original, of the deceased veteran’s discharge document, death
certificate and clearly indicate to what address the certificate should be sent. Mail the completed form
to Presidential Memorial Certificates, Department of Veterans Affairs, 5109 Russell Road, Quantico,
Virginia 22143-3909 or fax to 1-800-455-7143.
Military Funeral Honors

The Department of Defense is responsible for providing honors at veteran funerals. Two uniformed
persons are required, with at least one from the service of the deceased. They fold the burial flag and
present it to the next of kin.

The song “Taps” is played. The song is performed by a bugler, if available, or with a recording of a bugler.
Active duty persons participate whenever possible. Veteran’s service organizations often provide
volunteers where the active duty personnel are not available. Funeral home directors request honors on
behalf of the veteran’s family. For more information, visit
Headstones and Markers

Burial in a national cemetery includes the headstone or marker. When more than one family member is interred in the same gravesite, both sides of the
headstones are used.

If a veteran is buried in a private cemetery, anywhere in the world, VA will provide a headstone
or a marker.

NCA provided over 360,000 headstones and markers last year.

The funeral home director will usually order the headstone or marker for the veteran’s family if
the burial is not in a VA cemetery. A niche market is also available to mark columbaria for inurnment of cremains.
Flat bronze, granite, or marble markers and upright granite or marble headstones are available.
In national cemeteries, the style chosen must be consistent with existing monuments at the place
of burial. Government-furnished headstones and markers must be inscribed with: the name of
the deceased; branch of service; the year of birth and death and must be listed in this order.
They may also be inscribed with other markings, including an authorized emblem of belief and,
space permitting, additional text including military grade, rate or rank, war service such as
“World War II”, complete dates of birth and death, military awards, military organizations,
civilian or veteran affiliations, and words of endearment. USE VA Form 40-1330 (Application
for Standard Government Headstone or Marker) to pre-plan headstone text. Additional information and the form can be found on the internet at

A thoughtful gift by a veteran to his/her family would be to complete the form now and file it
with the discharge papers necessary to establish eligibility, along with a statement of burial
arrangement instructions.

Arlington National Cemetery and Others

Arlington National Cemetery is administered by the Department of the Army and is the nation’s best-known national cemetery.
At Arlington National Cemetery full-casket burial eligibility is much more restricted than for VA national
cemeteries. For cremated remains, eligibility requirements match those for other national cemeteries.

For general information, location of gravesites, and visitor information, call 703-607-8000. For funeral arrangements and eligibility requirements, call 703-607-8585. More information may also be found on the
internet at

The Department of Interior’s National Park Service maintains 14 national cemeteries, all but two of which
are closed. Call 202-208-4747 for information or visit on the web.
The American Battle Monuments Commission is responsible for 24 American military cemeteries and
monuments in countries other than the U.S.A. and all of them are closed. Their internet website is

State Veterans Cemeteries

The VA’s State Cemetery Grant Program is designed to complement VA’s 131 National
cemeteries across the country. This State Cemetery Grant Program helps states establish
new state veteran cemeteries and expand or improve existing state cemeteries in 36 states,
Saipan and Guam, which provided more than 25,000 burials last year.

Eligibility requirements are similar but do not necessarily match that for national cemeteries. Many require some period of residency.

Visit the National Cemetery Association’s website for the most current listing of state veteran cemeteries at


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