a loved one who was a member of the United States military forces dies,
the family will sometimes wish to arrange a burial with military honors.
There are one 114 national VA cemeteries in the United States, however,
not every state has a national cemetery. There are also a number
of state-run Veteran cemeteries. The main and most well-known military
cemetery is Arlington National Cemetery which is located in Washington,
D.C., and administered by the Army.
Who is eligible for
a Military Honors Funeral or Veteran’s Funeral?
* Members of the military
who were on active duty or a member of the Selected Reserve at the time
* Former members of the
United States Military who were on active duty and left the Service under
any conditions other than a dishonorable discharge.
* Former members of the
US Military who completed at least one term of active duty or period of
Selected Reserve duty obligation and left under conditions other than dishonorable.
* Former members of the
Selected Reserve who were discharged due to disability incurred in the
line of duty or a disability which was aggravated in the line of duty.
What is a Veteran or Military
Service man entitled to from the VA for a funeral?
As of September 11, 2001,
the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) will provide a headstone or grave
marker at no charge for the grave of any deceased veteran considered eligible
- regardless of anywhere in the world the cemetery is located. The
officials at veterans’ cemeteries will order such inscriptions as requested
by the next of kin of the deceased.
Current law requires that
any eligible veteran may be buried with Military Funeral Honors when requested
by the family. An honor guard will be provided with a minimum of
two members of the Armed Forces. One member of the honor guard will
be from the branch of the military in which the deceased veteran served.
The VA will provide a United
States flag at no cost to the family of the deceased. The flag is
used to drape the coffin of a veteran who is eligible for Military Funeral
Honors. The basic aspects of the ceremony include folding of the
flag, presentation of the flag to the next of kin, usually by a military
chaplain. The funeral ceremony is customarily ended by the playing
of Taps either by a bugler or by electronic recording - since nowadays,
buglers are rarely available.
The custom of playing Taps
began in the United States in 1862 during the Civil War. It was written
by Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield to replace the earlier “Tattoo”
(lights out), which the General thought, was inappropriate for a military
Draping the casket with the
national flag is a custom that began during the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1815).
At that time, dead soldiers were covered with a flag and removed from the
field of battle on a caisson (two wheeled vehicle used to hold artillery
ammunition attached to a horse-drawn wagon). A United States flag
is not placed in the grave and is not allowed to touch the ground at any
What allowances are
payable towards a Veteran’s funeral?
The VA will pay a burial
allowance of up to $2,000 if the death is service connected. In addition
they will pay the cost of transportation to the national cemetery nearest
the family of the deceased. The VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral
expense allowance for those veterans who were entitled to receive pension
or compensation at the time of death.
A £300 plot allowance
is payable if a veteran is not buried in a cemetery under United States
Government jurisdiction. However, if a veteran is buried without
charge in a state-owned cemetery for veteran burials, then the $300 allowance
may go to the state.
Who else may be eligible?
There are a number of other
persons who may be eligible for veterans’ burial benefit due to their military-related
service. This may include:
Civilians who contributed
to military efforts during war-time
National Guard personnel
with 20 years service
Certain Public Health Service
A cemetery plot or niche
in a National VA Cemetery cannot be reserved. Plots are allocated
on a needs basis at the time of death.
National cemeteries do have
both casket and cremation plots, however, some National VA Cemeteries may
only be able to offer cremation niche space now.
There are no specific casket
requirements for a VA cemetery.
The National Cemetery System
can search to locate anyone interred in a National Cemetery. You
need vital personal data plus the state from which the individual entered
Veteran’s Burial at
If desired, a Veteran is
entitled to a sea burial (or scattering of cremated remains) at sea.
The Navy or the US Coast Guard does this, and as it is done at the convenience
of these services, it cannot be witnessed. If a sea burial is requested
the body must be embalmed such that it will be preserved for at least 60
days. A non-sealing casket, bound with 6 bands of nylon and carrying
a loaded weight of 150 pounds, must be used and twenty 2-inch holes are
drilled in the top, bottom and at each end. This ensures that the
will sink to the depths of the ocean floor and remain there.