Veterans’ Burial Benefits
Often lamented as one of the biggest government bureaucracies in America, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be quite difficult to navigate. The VA does far more than manage pensions and disability compensations. It offers many other benefits that are far less publicized. For instance, the VA offers reimbursement of burial expenses for the families of some veterans.
Historically, there was a written application. However, starting in 2014, the VA announced that it was planned on abandoning its written application requirement in favor of an automated system that is designed to make the process simpler for survivors. Regardless of what method the VA uses, it is always best to seek the assistance of an attorney who understands the Department of Veterans Affair and who has experience representing clients before this large federal agency. VA accredited attorney Eric Millhorn can help you navigate the VA and make the most of this excellent benefit.
Who is eligible?
Each of the following must be met in order to be eligible for burial benefits:
- The applicant must have paid for the veteran’s funeral or burial expenses;
- The applicant must not have already been reimbursed for the costs; and
- The veteran must have been separated from the service under conditions other than dishonorable.
This means that the veteran does not necessarily even need an honorable discharge. He or she can also have a general discharge, other than honorable (OTH), or lesser separation status, so long as not dishonorable. In addition to satisfying one of the above requirements, the veteran must meet one of these seven additional conditions to qualify.
The VA expressly exempts certain people; it does not pay burial benefits if the deceased died during active military service (different benefits are available to active duty service members), was a member of Congress who died while holding office, or was a federal prisoner.
What does the VA pay?
The surviving family member who paid the veteran’s funeral expenses submits an application with copies of all related receipts. Upon review, the VA either approves or denies the request.
In general, for veterans whose deaths are unrelated to their service, the flat rate is only $300. For those who die from a “service-connected” condition, it is considerably more. If the veteran died after September 11, 2001, the amount is $2,000. If, for whatever reason, your loved one passed away due to a service-connected condition prior to September 11, 2001, you may be eligible for $1,500, even if you never applied for the benefit in the past. One should check with the VA directly to see more specific explanations of the various amounts one can receive depending on the situation.
Although $2,000 is not a lot of money and certainly is not going to pay for everything, it is still a benefit that your loved one may have earned. In a time when every dollar counts, do not overlook small benefits like the VA’s burial benefit program. Contact a Florida attorney at the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group with assistance recovering the benefits you deserve.