Multiple federal and local agencies can provide assistance with cremation costs, as long as certain requirements are met and all necessary forms filled out. These benefits can provide support to families who have lost a loved one and are considering cremation services.
State agencies that may provide funeral and cremation benefits include:
- The Social Security Administration (SSA)
- Veterans’ Affairs (VA)
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
In addition to these federal agencies, many states have county-level support programs in place to assist with cremation expenses.
If eligible, you may qualify for a one-time death benefit through the SSA. The program provides a lump-sum benefit of $255 that can be applied to funeral or cremation costs. It’s modest support, especially when the average funeral costs around $9,000, but it’s enough to cover about 30 percent of direct cremation services.
Who is eligible for the Social Security death benefit?
In most cases, the SSA’s death benefit is granted to the surviving spouse, if they were living with the deceased at the time of death. If the surviving spouse was living in a different household, though, they may still be eligible for the death benefit if they were receiving SSA benefits on the deceased’s record, or if the spouse became eligible for benefits when the decedent passed.
If there isn’t an eligible spouse, the death benefit may be granted to the decedent’s child or children. To be eligible, the child must have received SSA benefits on the decedent’s record or must have become eligible for those benefits upon death.
How can I apply for the death benefit?
Most state benefit programs require a good deal of paperwork, and it’s no different in this case. To apply, contact Social Security as soon as possible, especially if death has occurred. SSA will require the applicant to fill out an extensive form and provide identifying documentation. This could be a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship.
The VA also provides death benefits to families of deceased veterans. If the decedent died while engaged in active service, the VA’s program may provide up to $2,000 in reimbursed funeral or cremation costs. If death occurred while not in active service, the program provides $300 in reimbursed expenses.
It’s important to note that these are reimbursed costs, so the decedent’s family will have to pay for services first. It can take months for the VA to process death benefit requests, so apply as soon as possible.
Who is eligible for the VA’s death benefit?
To be eligible through the VA’s support program, the veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged from the military. Beyond that, the veteran must have fulfilled one of several conditions to be eligible for benefits. For example, if the veteran was receiving care at a VA facility at time of death or if they died while in the service, they are considered eligible. They are also eligible if they were receiving a VA pension or were eligible to receive a pension upon death.
How to apply for the VA benefit
The surviving spouse, children or parents can apply through the VA’s program. If there is an eligible surviving spouse on record upon death, the VA may pay out benefits as soon as they are notified of the veteran’s passing.
If this is not the case, eligible family members may apply for death benefits by completing Form 21P-530 online. To complete the form, the VA will require a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers.
When natural disasters occur,
FEMA may also provide cremation benefits
When someone dies due to a natural disaster, surviving family members may be able to receive death benefits for funeral or cremation purposes. The program is managed through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (Other Needs Assistance provision). It only covers death due to declared major disasters or emergencies.
How much FEMA offers is case-by-case, but it can cover a range of funeral and cremation-related expenses. Specifically, FEMA death benefits can provide support with cremation costs, transportation to identify the deceased, an urn and death certificates.
Who is eligible for FEMA’s benefits?
As you might expect, FEMA won’t pay anything out until they have plenty of confirming documentation in hand. Some of the items FEMA will need for eligibility purposes include:
- The decedent’s death certificate.
- Documentation from a designated state or local agency that proves the cause of death was related to a natural disaster.
- Identifying documentation that proves that the applicant is officially among the decedent’s next of kin.
- Proof that there are unmet funeral or cremation-related financial needs. A receipt from a cremation service provider would satisfy this requirement.
- Confirmation that death benefits have not been paid out by other state agencies, like the VA or SSA. If other agencies do provide assistance, those benefits are subtracted from what FEMA offers.
There are also state benefits available in some cases
Beyond federal government agencies, some local organizations may also help with cremation expenses. Some states do provide assistance at the state level, but many leave this to county and local-level authorities.
In Florida, there aren’t state-level programs available, but there are some county-level agencies that can help. A program in Escambia County, for example, can assist with cremation costs for indigent residents (decedents unclaimed by next of kin).
To determine what state and county programs are available, contact the state or county’s health department. They should be able to provide information on any benefit programs.
A traditional funeral and burial costs several thousand dollars, and may cost more than $10,000, depending on where the service is taking place. Even with government assistance, it may be impossible to cover all, or even most of those costs.
The cost of direct cremation services, though, is only about 10 percent of a traditional funeral with a burial. With assistance, cremation expenses can be completely accounted for, relieving families of their financial burden when death occurs. This is just one, among several, reasons why most Americans now choose cremation over other burial and memorializing options.