The number of veterans in the country has been reducing at a terrible rate, not to mention the many other issues that affect the veterans like poverty, homelessness and lack of good health care. Daily more than 392 veterans die not to mention more than 22 of that number are from suicide cases. The blow figures are a little alarming:
World War I (1917-1918)
U.S. service members: 4,734,991
Deaths: 116,516 (53,402 in battle)
Last veteran: Frank Buckles, died in 2011 at age 110
World War II (1941-1945)
U.S. service members: 16,112,566
Deaths: 405,399 (291,557 in battle)
Estimated living veterans: 620,000
Korean War (1950-1953)
U.S. service members: 5,720,000
Deaths: 54,246 (36,574 in theater)
Estimated living veterans: 2,275,000
Vietnam War (1964-1975)
U.S. service members: 8,744,000 (estimated 3,403,000 deployed)
Deaths: 90,220 (58,220 in theater)
Estimated living veterans: 7,391,000
Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)
U.S. service members: 2,322,000 (694,550 deployed)
Deaths: 1,948 (383 in theater)
Estimated living veterans: 2,244,583 (2009 estimate, may include veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan)
There are several funeral homes that offer burial services to the veterans. The only challenge is that the number of veterans buried from the funeral homes is very low compared to the number of veterans who die each day. This can be attributed to lack of knowledge and also the many social economic challenges that veterans face when they join the rest of the community after their service in the military.
All veterans have the legal right to be buried in a national cemetery, with a headstone made of marble or granite (regardless of the location of burial) and a flag. No charges will be incurred when opening or closing the grave, a vault or liner, or setting the marker in a national cemetery. Thou the family will have to cater for the other expenses including transportation. Markers will be available. The inscription for the markers must have the name, branch of service, year of birth, year of death—this is the normal order, it can include an emblem of belief, rank, and any decorations earned. At an additional cost, extra items can be included like nicknames and terms of endearment, however they have to be approved by the VA.
When a veteran passes on they are entitled to burial benefits. These benefits include:
- A gravesite in any of our 135 national cemeteries with available space
- Opening and closing of the grave
- Perpetual care
- A Government headstone or marker
- A burial flag
- A Presidential Memorial Certificate
- Some Veterans are entitled to get Burial Allowances.
- Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains.
A United States flag is provided, during the burial at no cost. The flag is used to drape the casket and for a cremation it will accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran who had served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces. This is done to honor all the memories of the Veteran’s military service to his or her country. For veterans who had dishonorably discharged the VA will furnish a burial flag for memorialization. So who is eligible to get a flag on their burial?
- A veteran who had served during any wartime
- A veteran who had passed on while on active duty after the 27th of May 1941.
- A veterans who had served in the military after the 31st of January 1955.
- Any Peacetime Veteran who had been discharged/ released before the 27th of June 1950, they must have served at least one enlistment or released due to a disability incurred in the line of duty.
- Specific people who had served in the Common Wealth organized military forces of the Philippines, while they were still in the service of the U. S. Military. Also they must have died on or after the 25th of April 1951.
- Specific previous members of the Selected Reserves.
When the VA offers the flag for the burial of a veteran or a service member, the next of kin is given the flag by the department as a keeps take. This is after it has been used in the burial. When there is no next of kin then a close friend of the deceased will be given the flag but only if they make a request for it. Families of veterans can donate the flags (they are normally flown during patriotic holidays).
The VA death benefit, has the following burial allowances that veterans and service members need to know about.
- Death while on active duty: VA caters for all expenses of the funeral: body preparation, casket, transportation to the place of disposition, interment (if in a national cemetery), and marker. The next of kin is entitled to receive a “death gratuity” of $100,000.
- Death caused by a service related injury: a burial allowance of $2000 will be offered to the veterans, this amount can cater for the funeral director’s expenses, the casket, and transportation to the cemetery. Veterans being buried in a VA cemetery may have their transportation costs catered for. For a non-national burial ground a sum of $300 will be offered as interment allowances, though most of the times it covers the opening and closing charges of the vault. A marble will be available for free.
- A non-service related death but at a VA health care facility: a sum of $722 will be offered toward the funeral & burial expenses. In case the burial will be taking place in non-VA cemetery, then the VA will offer and additional $722 to cater for the cost of the plot and interment.
- A non-service related death, which occurs outside a VA health care facility, but the veteran was collecting his/her VA pension and/or disability benefits: the VA will offer a sum of $300 for funeral or the burial expenses. The other mortuary expenses will be catered by the family even though burial in a national cemetery will be free. An interment allowance of $300 applies only if the burial takes place in a non-national cemetery.
- Death outside a VA facility, and the veteran was not receiving any of his benefits: the only benefits entitled to this veteran are a lot in a national cemetery, any required vault, interment, a granite or marble marker, and flag are the only burial benefits. The family will cater for all the cost if the burial is taking place on non-national cemetery.
- There are also state and county benefits that are offered when a veteran dies. It’s good to make an inquiry at your local veterans’ office on the available state and county benefits.
What about the spouses and the dependents?
The spouse and dependents of a veteran who is eligible for an honorable burial and a marker in the national cemetery (even if he/she is not married there), will be entitled to enjoy all the benefits of a deceased spouse. Burial rights from a prior marriage, can be claimed by a spouse who remarried a non-veteran. Spouses who are entitled to military pay and die at any military medical facility are entitled to military transport to the nearest national cemetery (no farthest that their last permanent address of residence). Adult children of veterans are also entitled to burial benefits, but only if the children are disabled and dependent.
Those who are eligible for burial benefits from the VA department are:
- Divorced spouses
- Adult children
- Parents, siblings and others—even if they are dependents
- Those with a dishonorable discharge
- Those convicted of subversive activities or capital crimes.
Burial taking Place at Sea.
Burial involving scattering the remains of a veteran at sea is an option that is available to all the veterans and close dependents. The option is offered by the US Cost Guard and the Navy. A flag must be there and if it was supplied by the family, it will be returned to them, but if supplied by the Navy it will not be given to the family. The only challenge with the sea burial is that it’s done at the convenience of the military personnel and the family might not have a chance to witness the burial.