Burial benefits may be available to veterans, families

May 25, 2014
A view of National Cemetery of the Alleghenies, Cecil Township, Sunday - Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A U.S. Navy veteran contacted the newsroom recently because he was concerned that grief-stricken families may not be aware of burial benefits available to veterans and their spouses.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration, it “furnishes, upon request, at no charge to the applicant, a government headstone or maker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death.” The sentence, in special type, emphasizes the word “unmarked.”

The information goes on to state, “For eligible veterans who died on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone, the VA may also furnish a headstone or marker to supplement the graves or a medallion to be affixed to a privately purchased headstone.

“Spouses and dependents are not eligible for a government-furnished headstone or marker unless they are buried in a national cemetery, state veterans’ cemetery or military post/base cemetery.”

More information is available at www.cem.va.gov/burial_benefits. The VA notes that a national cemetery grave site cannot be reserved in advance. “Make sure that your family knows your wishes and where your discharge papers are kept,” the website states. “These papers establish your family’s eligibility for burial services.”

Area counties, however, will often pay for part of the cost of a wartime veteran’s burial or marker and the burial of a widow.

Allegheny County allots $100 for the wartime veteran being buried, the same amount for a wartime veteran’s widow and $100 toward a federal headstone. It has forms available on the Allegheny County website, www.alleghenycounty.us/index.aspx.

Barry Grimm, Washington County director of Veterans Affairs, notes that Washington County has a burial allowance of $75 for a wartime active duty veteran or spouse of a deceased wartime veteran. What’s known as a headstone allowance of $100 for a wartime active-duty veteran can actually be used for a headstone, lettering on a memorial or a base for a memorial.

Kathy Cipcic, administrative assistant in the Veterans Affairs office of Greene County, said the amounts in Greene County are the same, and she noted a peacetime veteran is eligible only for the free government marker.

“As soon as I get the funeral bill and death certificate, I get it over to the county for processing,” she said. “A new medallion came out that comes in three different sizes with adhesive and bolts to place on the monument. You can get a marker or a medallion, but not both.”

Funeral directors inform clients of the burial benefits available to veterans, Cipcic said. “There are a few that do the paperwork. I’ve always worked with them. For the $100 (burial benefit application), I can wait a year. I don’t want them to make an incorrect decision and regret what they’ve done. It’s a hard time for the widow to make that correct decision.”

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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