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Veteran Funeral Benefits: What Expenses are Covered?

The VA or the state will pay some of the expenses incurred in the burial of our country's veterans. Not every veterans funeral expense is covered, although most of the normal expenses you might incur will be reimbursed.

When a veteran or his qualifying dependents are buried or inurned in a national cemetery, Arlington, or a National Park cemetery, the government will pay for opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a headstone or marker, and a burial flag.

If the veteran or his qualifying dependents are buried in a state veterans cemetery, burial services are provided by the individual state, not by the VA, and available services can vary widely from one state to another, and even from one state veterans cemetery to another within the same state. But what if the veteran is buried or inurned in a private cemetery? Will the government pick up the cost?

The government probably won’t cover all the costs, but you may be eligible for reimbursement from the VA for burial expenses if you paid for a veteran’s burial or funeral and you have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as burial insurance or the deceased veteran’s employer. The VA also provides headstones and markers, presidential memorial certificates (PMCs), and burial flags.

What veterans funeral expenses does the VA not cover?

Regardless of where a veteran or eligible family member is buried, the VA doesn’t pay for cremation, preparation of the deceased (embalming), casket or urn, or transportation to the cemetery. However, in certain situations, the government will cover some of these costs. Here are the exceptions:

  • When a military member dies while on active duty, the military service (not the VA) will pick up most of the costs, including cremation, embalming, casket or urn, funeral director services, and transportation of remains.

    In fact, the military will even pay for a family member to accompany the remains from the place of death to the funeral home. For Reserve and National Guard members, this includes active duty for training (ADT) and inactive duty training (IDT).

  • The military will pay to transfer the remains of military retirees and their family members who die while admitted to a military hospital, provided the place of burial is no farther than the deceased’s last residence.

  • If a veteran dies while admitted to a VA facility, such as a VA medical center or nursing home, the VA will pay the cost of transporting the remains to a national cemetery, provided the cemetery is no farther than the deceased’s last residence.

What veterans funeral expenses does the VA cover?

The costs covered by the VA depend on whether the death was related to the veteran’s military service. The VA pays more for veterans who die because of a service-related medical condition or injury than it does for non-service-related deaths. When the cause of death is not service related, the reimbursements are generally described as two payments:

  • A burial and funeral expense allowance

  • A plot or interment allowance

For a service-related death, the VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses for deaths on or after September 11, 2001. The VA will pay up to $1,500 for deaths prior to September 10, 2001. If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased may be reimbursed.

For a non-service-related death, the VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance for deaths on or after December 1, 2001. The plot-interment allowance is $150 for deaths prior to December 1, 2001.

If the death happened while the veteran was in a VA hospital or under VA-contracted nursing home care, some or all of the costs for transporting the veteran’s remains may be reimbursed.

The VA doesn’t pay these benefits in advance. You must supply copies of the funeral bills, and they must show that they have been paid in full to qualify for reimbursement. Additionally, if the cause of death wasn’t service-related, you must file your claim within two years from the date of death. There is no time limit for service-connected claims.

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