Due to a recent change, veterans can now find out in advance if they and their family members are eligible for burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery. To share this information, as well as answer other questions regarding VA memorial benefits, The American Legion and VA staff recently teamed up for a live chat on Facebook.
Previously, eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery could only be determined after the death of the veteran or family member. With the change, veterans can find out if they are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery before the time of need. This “pre-need” eligibility determination helps families plan in advance and streamline access to burial benefits that veterans have earned through military service for themselves and their eligible family members.
Many of the chat questions were related to eligibility, including whether or not it was necessary to have served in a war zone. VA staff responded that veterans with other than a dishonorable discharge and their spouses generally are eligible for burial in a national cemetery. Those inquiring were advised to apply for pre-need eligibility.
Other veterans inquired as to how long it normally takes to hear back from VA after applying for pre-need eligibility. The average wait time is 90 days. And the question of whether spouses could also be buried in a national cemetery was presented. Those spouses also were advised to apply for pre-need eligibility.
The chat also provided 10 frequently asked questions about memorial benefits. Included in those were:
• I plan to be buried in a private cemetery and all I want is a government headstone. Can I use the pre-need burial form to determine if I’m eligible for a government headstone or marker? Yes. We encourage you to submit a completed VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery even if you are only interested in receiving a government-furnished headstone or marker. VA will maintain your pre-need application, supporting documentation and decision letter in an electronic information system. At your time of need, your family member or individual responsible for the disposition of your remains must submit a VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker. They should write in box 27 entitled “REMARKS” on VA Form 40-1330 “decedent has a VA pre-need decision letter”.
• Who can apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination? Veterans and spouses can apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination. Family members, authorized representatives and agents can apply on behalf of eligible claimants. Learn more here.
• What happens after you determine that you are eligible for VA burials? VA will save the pre-need claim form, supporting documentation and decision letter in a recallable system to expedite your burial arrangements at your time of need. At time of death, should your family or personal representative request burial in a VA national cemetery, VA will confirm eligibility based on the laws in effect at that time.
To view the chat in its entirety, click here.