Burial Benefits

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News October 2014

New burial regulations and other death benefits for veterans and their family members aren’t happy subjects to discuss.

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Dying is sadly a part of life and this is a topic that veterans’ advocates have to deal with sometimes on a daily basis. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) National Service Officers nationwide encounter veterans’ families who simply don’t know what to do.

Deceased veterans’ family members don’t know what action to take or what benefits they’re entitled to receive. There’s hope for these family members because PVA is here to help.

Revised Regulations

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released new regulations regarding burial benefits July 7.

The proper definition, according to the VA of Burial Benefits, is a one-time benefit paid to the veteran’s spouse or executor of his or her estate to pay a part of funeral expenses. The VA is no longer requiring a veteran’s family to fill out the form required to receive the one-time burial benefit.

The revised regulation states that the deceased veteran’s family only needs to let the VA know that the veteran has passed away. After this task is completed, the VA will stop the deceased disability compensation pension and they’ll re-issue the last month’s check that would’ve been paid for that month in the spouse or executor’s name. This is commonly called the “Month of Death” check.

The burial allowance for a non-service-connected (NSC) death is $300 and $2,000 for a death that was because of a service-connected (SC) injury or illness. Both of these dollar amounts in conjunction with NSC or SC will be automatically paid out to family members once the Application for Burial Benefits (VAF 21-530) form is filled out, mailed and processed.

The Burial Benefit and the Month of Death check aren’t the only benefits that family members can obtain upon their loved one passing away.

Additional Aid

Every deceased veteran’s family members can obtain certain benefits as long as their loved one was released from the military under conditions other than dishonorable.

Deceased veterans are eligible for a headstone or foot marker, a Presidential Memorial Certificate of Appreciation and possible gravesites in one of the 131 national cemeteries depending on availability.

A request for burial in a national cemetery is to be arranged by the veteran’s family’s choice of funeral directors (obtain a copy of your loved one’s Department of Defense [DD] Form 214). The funeral director will require the form if families would like to have a designated person presented with a U.S. burial flag.

There is another important benefit for dependents or executors called the “Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child.”

To file for this benefit, VA Form 21-534 must be filled out, placing appropriate documents with it and mailing to the VA. Not all dependents will qualify for this benefit, so it’s best to go through a local PVA National Service Officer (NSO) to find out whether or not you qualify.

There is also a possible benefit for parents who are financially dependent on a veteran. Check with your local NSO for qualifications.

Advanced Preparation

This is a list of items family members will need to take with them when visiting a local PVA service office to file for death benefits:

-Death certificate

-Marriage license (the VA may or may not require information and documentation of previous marriages)

-Birth certificates of any children under the age of 18

-Copy of bill from the funeral home for burial services

-Copy of bill from cemetery for burial plots (this includes pre-paid plots for deceased veterans)

-DD Form 214 (discharge papers)

-Copy of a deposit slip for checking or savings account with a banking institution

-Copy of the deceased veteran’s Rating Board Decision from the VA (this applies to deceased service connected veterans)

-Any information regarding life insurance policies

-Information regarding financial obligations in regards to the widow’s compensation or pension as the VA will ask for specific information

Death is obviously a very difficult situation to deal with. However, the more advanced preparation you and your family make ahead of time, the easier it’ll be to handle and deal with paper work needed in the future.

Veterans should create personal files that contain all pertinent information so family members can easily locate them. Have as much information in these files as you can to help make the process as stress-free as possible on family members who are left behind.

For more information, contact your local NSO from the roster on page 56.

Jennifer Ammons is a Paralyzed Veterans of America National Service Officer II in Augusta, Ga.


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