VA offers program to assist families for burials

Published 5:24 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The uncertainty of knowing if a loved one that’s served in the military is eligible to be buried in a Veteran Affairs (VA) national cemetery is now an issue of the past.
Carter County Veterans Service Officer David Batchelder provided information to the Elizabethton Star Tuesday morning about the Department of Veterans Affairs recently implementing a Pre-Need Burial Eligibility Determination program to assist anyone wanting to know their possibility of being laid to rest at a VA cemetery.
“Too many veterans don’t have their affairs in order and don’t let their families know where to find their DD214 and other important papers,” Batchelder said. “This causes additional stress on their loved ones during an already stressful time. By taking this opportunity to complete the Pre-Need Burial Eligibility Determination, they can relieve some of the pressure during this time.”
Batchelder added the VA is promoting pre-need eligibility determinations to encourage families and their eligible family members to plan in advance to use VA burial benefits that servicemen and women have earned through their military service.
“Planning in advance for a veteran’s or loved one’s final resting place can eliminate unnecessary delays and reduce stress on a family at a difficult time,” Batchelder said. “Veteran families will have increased confidence that their loved ones are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery at their time of need.”
According to the officer, when the VA receives the request, they will make eligibility determination for burial in a VA national cemetery in advance of need.
Eligible individuals are entitled to burial in any open VA national cemetery which includes opening-closing of the grave, a government-furnished grave liner, perpetual care of the gravesite, and a government-furnished upright headstone or flat marker or niche cover all at no cost to the family. Veterans are also eligible for a burial flag and Presidential Memorial Certificate.
Burial in a VA national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces and veterans who have met minimum active duty service requirements and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Batchelder also mentioned that “members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty under certain circumstances or who die while on training duty are also eligible for burial, as are service members and former service members who were eligible for retired pay at the time of their death.”
Spouses, minor children and, under certain conditions, dependent unmarried adult children are also eligible for burial even if they predecease the veteran.
“The VA has implemented this pre-need eligibility program so that veterans, spouses and unmarried dependent adult children may better prepare for burial in a VA national cemetery prior to the time of need,” Batchelder said. “The VA will review pre-need burial applications and provide written notice of a determination of eligibility. VA will store the pre-need application, supporting documentation, and the decision letter to expedite burial arrangements at the time of need. We encourage you to keep the decision letter with supporting documentation with your important papers in a safe place and to discuss your burial wishes and final arrangements with your loved ones or other representatives.”
Submission of a pre-need burial eligibility application does not obligate the Veteran or family member to burial in a VA national cemetery, he added.
The office at the National Cemetery is not processing pre-need burial applications but applications can be picked up through Batchelder’s office. For more information, contact the officer at (423) 542-1824.

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