By Robert L. Mues   |   September 19th, 2020

Can You Be Buried in a VA National Cemetery? Pre-need Burial Eligibility Program Can Help Eliminate Unnecessary Stress and Delays at a Difficult Time For Military Families and Their Friends

VA national cemetery pre-need burial eligibility programAre you or a loved one considering burial in a VA national cemetery? We are blessed in Dayton to have our own VA National Cemetery. It was founded in 1867 and it includes over 116 acres and close to 50,000 graves.  The 30-foot Dayton Soldiers’ Monument towers over the cemetery as a tribute to 33 soldiers buried there who died in the War of 1812. There is a lot of history at that cemetery, and it is an interesting place to visit if you haven’t seen it.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) has launched an application where eligible individuals can plan ahead for burial in a VA national cemetery  on a first in – first out basis. Individuals will be able to notify the VA of their preference for which cemetery they would prefer as well as receive burial benefits at no cost to their family in a VA national cemetery. However, the pre-need eligibility determination only applies to VA national cemeteries, not state or tribal Veterans cemeteries.

What is pre-need burial eligibility?

The VA now offers a service where you can find out in advance if you can be buried in a VA national cemetery. The goal of the pre-need burial eligibility program is to encourage eligible applicants to plan in advance, which will eliminate unnecessary stress and delays at a difficult time for their families and friends.

The pre-need burial eligibility program  application is only for applicants planning a burial before the time of need as there is a separate form for requesting burial at the actual time of need. Moreover, although the VA will try to fulfill the final wishes of an applicant, reservations are not currently accepted. The VA assigns gravesites once death has occurred and the burial is scheduled. As such, this pre-need burial eligibility program application is not a reservation.

Am I eligible?

The VA bases their decision on service history of the veteran or the service member sponsoring the application. To be eligible, one of the following must apply to the applicant:

  • A Veteran who didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge when separated from the military; or
  • The spouse or dependent child of a service member or Veteran, even if the service member or Veteran has already passed away; or
  • In some cases, the adult dependent child of a service or Veteran (if not married)

How does the process work?

An application must first be submitted by an eligible individual, or their representative. On the application, an applicant may indicate a preference for a VA national cemetery. The applicant should also gather the supporting documents and information that will be needed for the application. Such documents and information include the social security number, date and place of birth, military status and service history, and discharge papers. Additional information may be needed depending on the applicant and situation. Click here to go to the application.

After an application is submitted, the VA will review and then provide written notice of a determination of eligibility. You may appeal or request another review if the applicant receives a denial decision letter. If you do qualify for burial benefits , you will receive a VA burial and memorial benefits folder from the VA, which will contain your pre-need decision letter, information about the benefits you will receive, and a copy of the supporting documents provided in your application.

What If I Change My Mind About a Burial in a VA National Cemetery?

At the time of need, the person arranging your burial should call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office and should have your pre-need determination letter at that time. The VA will then confirm your pre-need eligibility determination  based on the laws in effect at the time of need.

If you change your mind about burial in a VA national cemetery, your loved ones can make private arrangements, even if you have a pre-need decision letter. The VA does not need to be notified of a change in plans. However, your loved ones can still request a headstone or marker at the time of need.

What are the burial benefits?

In addition to providing peace of mind for your family and friends, eligible applicants would also receive the following burial benefits:

  • Opening and closing of the grave
  • A burial liner provided by the government
  • A headstone or marker provided by the government
  • Perpetual care of the gravesite

If you would like more information on the pre-need application process, click here to read Q & A’s by the VA. Click here for more information about the Dayton, Ohio VA National Cemetery located at 4400 W. Third St., Dayton, Ohio 45428.

PUBLISHERS NOTE: I want to thank Ashlyn O’Brien, a third-year law student at the University of Dayton School of Law, for all of her assistance in drafting this blog article. Excellent job Ashlyn!

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About The Author: Robert L. Mues
Attorney Robert "Chip" Mues has been focusing his legal practice throughout Southwest Ohio primarily in divorce and family law matters since 1978. Chip is passionate about family law and has proudly published the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007. In addition, he is the managing partner of Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. To learn more about him or the law firm, visit the firm's website at Appointments are available in person, over the phone or by Zoom. Call us at 937 293-2141.

Do You Qualify for Pre-Need Burial Eligibility in a VA National Cemetery?

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