Benefits available to veterans’ families

  • Funeral benefits include free burial in a national cemetery, a plot allowance, an honor ceremony, and a headstone, marker, or medallion.

  • Survivors may be eligible for a monthly pension, plus additional assistance if you need it.

  • Other benefits include health care, home loans, financial counseling, employment counseling, education and training assistance, and more. 

  • For families of those who died on active duty or as a result of duty-related injury or illness will receive special payments mean to help them through this difficult time.

Losing a loved one is difficult enough; having to worry about how you will pay for their funeral and other new expenses can bring on another level of stress. If your loved one was a military veteran, there are a variety of benefits that family members and dependents are entitled to, which are meant to help ease your financial burden. Your loved one earned these benefits by serving their country, and claiming them is a fitting way to honor them now that they are gone. And the less you have to worry about finances now, the more you can focus on taking the emotional space you need to grieve. 

Funeral benefits for veterans

As a veteran, your loved one is entitled to veterans burial benefits, which include burial in a national cemetery at no cost. This includes the gravesite, the opening and closing of the grave, a grave liner for the casket, a government-issued headstone, and a burial flag, as well as a Presidential Memorial Certificate, an engraved paper certificate signed by the current President of the United States. Cremated remains are placed in a cremation space in national cemeteries with the same honors that caskets receive. The VA will also pay for the cost of transportation to the national cemetery nearest your loved one’s home that has available space. 

The burial benefits do not, however, cover the casket itself, or the cost of a funeral or cremation service or wake. You may be eligible for an allowance of up to $300 to help pay for the funeral service.

If you choose a private cemetery for your loved one instead, a plot-Interment allowance of up to $796 is available from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help finance it. Veterans buried in a private cemetery may also be eligible to receive certain memorial items from the government at no cost, such as a burial flag, a headstone or marker, or a medallion for a privately purchased headstone.

For all of these benefits, you will have to fill out certain forms and mail or fax them into the appropriate VA office. Burial in a national cemetery will also require advance scheduling. The VA website gives detailed instructions on everything you need to do, or you can speak to a VA representative by phone who will be able to assist you with your particular situation. The funeral home you are working with will also be an important resource.

One more free benefit that the Department of Defense offers to every veteran, whether buried in a national cemetery or a private one, is a funeral ceremony with military honors. They will send two or more uniformed military personnel, at least one of whom will be a member of your loved one’s service branch, to play Taps and perform the folding and presentation of the United States burial flag. Though any veteran is eligible, the Department of Defense requires the funeral director to specifically request this honors ceremony on behalf of the family, so make sure to speak with the funeral director if you want this kind of service for your loved one.

Veterans benefits for survivors

If you are the spouse or other close relative of a veteran who has passed away, and your income and net worth meet certain requirements set by Congress, then you may be eligible to receive a survivors pension, which is a monthly tax-free monetary benefit from the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you require the permanent assistance and care of another person for your daily living activities, whether due to a permanent medical condition or simply old age, then you might also be entitled to the Aid and Attendance benefit in addition to the survivors pension. The maximum payable survivors pension including the additional Aid and Attendance benefit is $1,244 per month. 

Unfortunately, many spouses are unaware of these benefits from the VA that can often provide them with much-needed relief.

Other benefits that may be available to surviving spouses and other family members of a veteran include health care, home loans, financial counseling, employment counseling, education and training assistance, and more. 

Unfortunately, many spouses are unaware of these benefits from the VA that can often provide them with much-needed relief. Make sure to visit the VA website to see all of your options. You can file your forms for all benefits online, mail them in, or visit a VA office in person.  If you call the VA, they can help you with all of the information you need, including instructions on how to apply for benefits.

Finally, many veterans buy their life insurance policies through the VA, and they can help you file your claim and walk you through the process.

If your loved one died while in service

If your loved one died on active duty, or within 120 days thereafter as a result of injury or illness related to their service, a designated beneficiary or their next of kin is eligible for a death gratuity payment of $100,000. This payment should be disbursed automatically, but if you have not received it, you may need to contact your loved one’s branch of the military.

The one-time, tax-free death gratuity payment is meant to assist you financially in the immediate period after your loved one’s death before you go on to claim other benefits. This money can be used in whatever ways you most need it—to offset funeral costs, pay bills, and take care of everyday expenses during this painful time. 

You might also be eligible for an additional benefit known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), if your loved one’s death resulted from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated while they were on active duty or training, or if they passed away after a certain number of years of receiving VA compensation for a service-related disability that made it impossible for them to work. This benefit can be applied for online, or you can download forms and mail them or bring them to a VA office.

If you need any kind of assistance with this or any benefit, the VA has a special phone number set up for benefits issues: 800-827-1000 (Monday-Friday, 8am-9pm ET).

Although checking your eligibility for veterans benefits can appear daunting, it is really quite straightforward. These benefits are in place to help you and your family, and the VA does not make it challenging to claim them. Your loved one earned them through service to the country, after all, and making use of them is an important way to honor their memory.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.