Burial in a VA National Cemetery

Eligibility for VA burial, death and related benefits - To confirm your eligibility, call a Veteran's Benefits Counselor at 1-800-827-1000.

~ Members of the Armed Forces of the United States (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard) who died on active duty.
~ Veterans who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Generally, an enlisted person with service beginning after September 7, 1980, and an officer with service after October 16, 1981, must have served for a minimum of 24 months or the full period for which the person was called to active duty. A VA Regional Office will make determination in the case of an undesirable, bad conduct, or other than honorable discharge.
~ Any citizen of the United States who served during any war, in which the United States has been engaged, in the armed forces of an ally of the U.S. The last active service must be terminated honorably. The person must have been a U.S. citizen at the time of entry into such service and at the time of death.
~ Reservists and National Guard members with 20 years of qualifying service, who are entitled to retired pay or would be entitled, if at least 60 years of age.
~ Members of reserve components who were disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty during a period of inactive duty training or active duty for training.
~ For members of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, commissioned officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service, and World War II Merchant Mariners, please call a Veteran's Benefits Counselor at 1-800-827-1000 for details.
~ The spouse or surviving spouse of an eligible person, even if that person is not buried or memorialized in a national cemetery, is eligible for interment in a national cemetery. In addition, the spouse of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States lost or buried at sea or officially determined to be permanently absent in a status of missing or missing in action or whose remains have been donated to science or cremated and the ashes scattered.
~ Eligible children must be unmarried and under the age of 21; unmarried and under 23 years of age and pursuing a course of instruction at an approved educational institution; or be an unmarried adult child who became incapable of self support before reaching the age of 21 because of mental or physical disability.

Persons NOT Eligible for Burial in a VA National Cemetery and other VA death related benefits:

~ Discharge from Draft - A person who was ordered to report to an induction station, but was not actually inducted into military service.
~ Subversive Activities - Any person convicted of subversive activities after September 1, 1959, shall have no right from and after the date of commission of such offense, based on periods of active military service commencing before the date of the commission of such offense.
~ Active or Inactive Duty for Training - A person whose only service is active duty for training or inactive duty training in the National Guard or Reserve Component, unless the individual meets the eligibility criteria listed above.
~ A person convicted of any Federal Capital crime or any State capital crime involving the death of one or more people is denied burial or memorialization in a national cemetery. (Public Law 105-116, Nov. 1, 1997)
~ Former Spouses: A former spouse of an eligible individual whose marriage to that individual has been terminated by annulment or divorce, if not otherwise eligible.

VA national cemetery directors have the primary responsibility for verifying eligibility for burial in VA national cemeteries.

Details -
Gravesites in VA national cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance; however, reservations made prior to 1973 will be honored. No special forms are required when requesting burial in a VA national cemetery. The person making burial arrangements should contact the national cemetery in which burial is desired at the time of need. Scheduling can be done seven days a week for interments on Mondays through Fridays.

If possible, the following information concerning the deceased should be provided when the cemetery is first contacted: full name, military rank, branch of service, social security number, service number, VA claim number (if applicable), date and place of birth, date and place of death, date of retirement or last separation from active duty, and a copy of any military separation documents, such as the Department of Defense Form 214 (DD-214). The discharge documents must specify active military duty and show that release from active duty was under other than dishonorable conditions.

The same procedures are followed if the veteran's eligible spouse or dependent predeceases the veteran. In most cases, one gravesite is provided for the burial of all eligible family members and a single headstone or marker is provided.

When both spouses are veterans, two gravesites and two headstones or markers may be provided if requested.

Viewing facilities are not available and funeral services cannot be held at VA national cemeteries, but a final committal service may be performed. For safety reasons, these committal services are held in committal shelters located away from the gravesite.

Burial will take place following the committal service. Floral arrangements may accompany the casket or urn from the committal shelter and will be placed on the grave after burial.

Cemetery personnel will order a headstone or marker upon inscription approval by next of kin. A burial flag will also be provided. Upright headstones are standard in most national cemeteries; however, some have both upright headstones and flat marker sections.

Contact - VA National Cemeteries near New Jersey: Appendix E.

VA Headstone for Burial in a Private Cemetery
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnishes upon request, at no charge to the applicant, a government headstone or marker to mark the grave of an eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world. Flat bronze, granite or marble markers and upright granite and marble headstones are available. The style chosen must be consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Niche markers are also available to mark columbaria used for interment of cremated remains.

Eligibility -
Criteria listed above. Headstones and markers are provided for eligible spouses and dependents of veterans only when buried in a national, military post/base, or state veterans cemetery. Spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery are not eligible for a government-provided headstone or marker.

Details - By law, government markers are not provided as foot stones and should not be used to double-mark a veterans' grave. VA frequently calls the cemetery to verify the grave is not, or will not be, marked with a private headstone or marker.

Contact - A funeral director can assist the family, complete VA Form 40-1330, Application for Standard Government Headstone or Marker for Installation in a Private or State Veteran's Cemetery. A Veterans Service Officer may also assist, see Appendix A.