Upon death, veterans are entitled to additional benefits through the VA and these benefits can be used to pay for the costs of cremation. There are, of course, eligibility requirements and an application process to work through, which can make the process confusing. However, many families find that the time and effort are worth it, as VA benefits may cover most, if not all, of your loved one’s cremation expenses.
How much assistance can the VA provide with cremation?
It depends. If the veteran’s death was service-connected, then the VA will pay out up to $2,000 in burial or cremation benefits. However, if the death occurred before September 11, 2001, then the VA will only pay out a maximum of $1,500.
Veterans’ Affairs also pays out a reduced benefit for non-service-connected deaths, too. In most cases, the benefit is $300 for cremation expenses. However, if the veteran died at a VA hospital, the VA will pay out between $734 and $828, depending on the date of death.
What’s the difference between a service-connected and non-service-connected death?
It may not be immediately clear what service and non-service means in this context, but it makes a big difference in how much assistance the VA will provide.
A service-connected death is one that was due, at least in part, to injury or illness that occurred or was made worse by military service.
A non-service-connected death means the opposite – one that did not occur due to injury or illness experienced during military service.
Who is eligible for VA death benefits?
All veterans are entitled to death benefits as long as they were not dishonorably discharged from the military. Only certain people are allowed to receive this benefit, though. To be eligible, you must be one of the following:
- The veteran’s spouse or partner
- The veteran’s child
- The veteran’s parent
- The executor administrator of the veteran’s estate
In addition, one of the following must be true regarding the veteran:
- They died as a result of a service-connected disability
- They died while receiving care at a VA facility or a facility contracted by the VA
- They died while being transported or traveling (with authorization) to the VA for care
- They died while receiving a pension from the VA
- They died while eligible for a VA pension, but chose to receive full military pay instead
It’s important to note that the VA does not provide assistance if the veteran died while on active duty. This is left to other government agencies and the VA does not provide additional assistance on top of what other agencies offer.
How to apply for VA cremation benefits
The exact form to apply for VA death benefits is VA Form 21P-530. To receive VA benefits, though, you’ll have to verify your identity and verify that the veteran was not dishonorably discharged. To expedite the process as much as possible, it’s a good idea to have the following on hand:
- A copy of the original DD Form 214. This form is the official discharge papers for the decedent and specifies whether they were honorably discharged or not.
- A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate
- Your Social Security number
- Any dependent child’s Social Security number
- A birth certificate for any dependent child under 18 years old
- Receipts for any funeral or cremation expenses
- Receipts for any hospital or doctor bills resulting from the decedent’s final illness, if relevant to their death
- Verification of any life insurance benefits
- If you are the surviving spouse but were divorced at the time of death, a copy of the original divorce decree will be required
- If the decedent or you are receiving Social Security, then the benefit amount must be reported
- If you or the decedent have any additional income, the amount and the source of the income must be reported
- If a VA claim number has already been provided to you, that will be required as well
Much of this information can be retrieved online through the VA or other government agencies. However, given how much documentation is needed, it’s recommended that you begin the information gathering process as soon as possible.
We can help provide one or more death certificates and receipts for cremation expenses to help with procuring VA benefits. When ordering direct cremation services online, select the option for a death certificate and we will include it in our cremation package.
What other death benefits are veterans entitled to?
In addition to assistance with cremation expenses, there are additional benefits that the VA can provide to veterans and their families. Depending on the circumstances, the VA may be able to:
Assist with inurnment at a national military cemetery
Provide a burial flag
Provide a presidential memorial certificate
Provide military honors
In most cases, these benefits can be had without additional costs to the family.
VA benefits can minimize the cost of cremation
Direct cremation is already inexpensive compared to other options and VA benefits can reduce this cost further – perhaps to zero. However, attaining VA benefits or any government death benefits can take months to resolve, so you may have to be reimbursed after burial or cremation takes place. As direct cremation is about 10 percent the cost of a traditional burial, most families find that it’s far easier to fit cremation into their plans.