Veterans Benefits For Dummies
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Most, but not all, veterans are eligible for veterans burial and memorial benefits, including a special marker, medallion, or headstone, a memorial flag, and a signed certificate from the President.

Get markers, medallions, or headstones for veterans

When someone is buried or memorialized in a national cemetery, state veterans cemetery, or National Park cemetery, a headstone or marker is part of the package. However, the VA also furnishes, upon request, a government headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world.

Because of a change in the law, the VA also provides for eligible veterans who died on or after November 1, 1990, a headstone or marker for graves already marked with a private headstone or marker.

As with other veteran burial benefits, the VA doesn’t charge for the headstones or markers it provides. Although there’s no charge for the headstone or marker itself, arrangements for placing it in a private cemetery are the applicant’s responsibility, and all setting fees are at private expense.

The VA offers several types of markers and headstones, including upright headstones, flat grave markers, bronze niche markers, and a new medallion.

  • Upright headstones: These headstones are 42 inches high, 13 inches wide, and 4 inches thick. They weigh about 230 pounds and are available in marble or granite.

  • Flat grave markers: The flat grave markers are available in bronze, marble, or granite. The flat bronze grave marker is 24 inches long and 12 inches wide, with a 3/4-inch rise, and weighs about 18 pounds. The flat granite and flat marble grave markers are 24 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 4 inches thick. Weight is approximately 130 pounds.

    Anchor bolts, nuts, and washers for fastening to a base are furnished with the marker. However, the government doesn’t furnish a base.

  • Bronze niche marker: This niche marker is 8 1/2 inches long and 5 1/2 inches wide, with a 7/16-inch rise, and weighs approximately 3 pounds. As with the flat grave markers, mounting bolts and washers are furnished with the marker.

  • Bronze medallion: This medallion is designed to be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker to signify the deceased’s status as a veteran. The medallion is available in three sizes: 5 inches, 3 inches, and 1 ½ inches wide.

    The medallion includes an image of a folded memorial flag adorned with laurels and the word "Veteran" across the top and the name of the service branch across the bottom. The medallion comes with a kit for affixing it to a headstone, grave marker, or mausoleum cover.

The medallion can only be furnished in lieu of a traditional government headstone or marker to those veterans who died on or after November 1, 1990, and whose grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.

To apply for a marker for use in a private cemetery, file VA Form 40-1330; to apply for a medallion instead, file VA Form 40-1330M.

Spouses and dependents aren’t eligible for a government-furnished headstone or marker unless they are buried in a national cemetery, National Park Service cemetery, Arlington, or state veterans cemetery.

Add an inscription to a veterans headstone or marker

Mandatory items of inscription on government-furnished headstones at government expense are legal name, branch of service, year of birth, and year of death.

In addition to the mandatory facts, you can request that optional information be included at government expense. Optional items include month and day of birth; month and day of death; highest rank attained; medals earned; war service; and emblem of belief.

War service includes active-duty service during a recognized period of war, but the individual does not have to have served in the actual place of war. For example, “Vietnam” may be inscribed if the veteran served during the Vietnam War period, even though the individual never served in Vietnam itself.

You can also request that space be reserved for future inscriptions at private expense, such as a spouse or dependent’s data. Only two lines of space may be reserved on flat markers due to space limitations. Reserved space is unnecessary on upright marble or granite headstones because the reverse side is available for future inscriptions.

You may request additional items on the headstone or marker if space is available. Examples of acceptable items include terms of endearment, nicknames (in expressions such as “Our beloved Poppy”), and military or civilian credentials or accomplishments, such as “Doctor,” “Reverend,” and so on. All requests for additional items at government expense are subject to approval by the VA.

Replace veterans headstones and markers

Headstones and markers previously furnished by the government may be replaced at government expense if badly deteriorated, illegible, stolen, or vandalized. The VA will also replace the headstone or marker if the inscription is incorrect, if it was damaged during shipping, or if the material or workmanship doesn’t meet government contract specifications.

Get presidential memorial certificates for veterans

A presidential memorial certificate (PMC) is an engraved paper certificate, signed by the current president, to honor the memory of honorably discharged veterans. The certificate is available in memory of any deceased veteran, as long as he received a military discharge that the VA doesn’t consider dishonorable.

If you’re the next-of-kin, family member, loved one, or even a friend of an eligible deceased veteran, you may request a PCM from the VA. More than one certificate may be issued, and there is no time limit for requesting one. Use VA Form 40-0247 to request the certificate.

Receiving a burial flag for a veteran

The VA provides a United States flag, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased eligible veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin as a keepsake after its use during the funeral service. When there is no next of kin, the VA can furnish the flag to a friend who requests it. Apply for a flag with VA Form 21-2008.

Memorial flags can’t be replaced at government expense if they are lost, damaged, or stolen.

Most family members elect to display the memorial flag in a specially constructed flag case. Several varieties are available in military surplus stores and for purchase on the Internet.

The memorial flag isn’t suitable for flying on a flag pole or displaying outdoors because of its size and fabric. It’s made of cotton and can easily be damaged by weather.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Rod Powers is a recognized expert in all U.S. military matters. A military author, his articles have appeared in numerous military and civilian publications. Powers is the co-author of the successful ASVAB For Dummies, 2nd Edition, and serves as a military guide for

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