Learn about VA death benefits and whether or not they’ll cover the cremation of a veteran who has passed away or for yourself if you are a veteran.
John Maher: Hi I’m John Maher, I’m here today with Victor Buonfiglio of Boston Cremation and our topic is, do VA death benefits cover cremation? Welcome Victor.
Victor Buonfiglio: Hi John.
VA Death Benefits Explained
John: Victor what are VA death benefits?
Victor: Well, they’re going to be financial, monetary benefits for our veterans in Massachusetts that passed away. Typically, the criteria is [that] honorably discharged veterans would be eligible for these benefits.
John: Okay. Does it vary by state? Is it different in Massachusetts than other states?
Victor: Typically no. The only, these are federal benefits but each state has a different program for their indigene veterans which we can talk about a little bit too.
How VA Death Benefits Cover Cremation
John: Okay. Tell me a little bit about how the VA death benefits cover cremation.
Victor: Sure. Basically, it’s not cremation, it’s a funeral benefit, [and] the family can use the benefit however they wish. If the veteran was receiving a pension, they can actually receive up to $300 and that’s a reimbursement to the person who paid for the expenses. That $300, the application is filled out with the assistance of the funeral director and it gets paid right back to the family.
If a veteran was not buried in a veteran cemetery, they are also entitled to a $300 plot benefit, that would be a total of $600 for a veteran who honorably discharged, who was receiving a pension or disability from the VA and who wasn’t buried in a national cemetery. The national cemetery benefit is by far the biggest benefit for a veteran. In Massachusetts we have two cemeteries, one out West and one down the Cape. The benefit for that is going to be burial space or cremation space for a husband and their spouse or a dependent child.
Today typically, if somebody needed to buy a grave, the grave space, the liner of burial vault, the marker, the opening and the closing of the grave, they’d be looking at about $12,000. This is a free benefit for veterans that are honorably discharged. We tell folks all the time because some people don’t realize it’s quite an honor to be able to be buried in a national cemetery. Bill Gates can’t be buried in a national cemetery with all his money because he’s not a veteran, you can’t buy your way, you need to need to earn it, it’s quite an honor. We always tell folks, if they’re thinking about trying to be economical or if money is an issue, take advantage of that because not everybody can have it.
John: You said that if you don’t choose to go into the national cemetery then you’d get a $300.
Victor: You’d get a $300 benefit back.
John: That’s not anywhere close to it, the $12,000 you’re talking about.
Victor: No, it’s a small stipend amount.
Increased VA Death Benefits in Massachusetts
John: You mentioned a difference with Massachusetts potentially.
Victor: Massachusetts actually has a benefit for their indigenous veterans, which they’ll pay up to $2,000 for a veteran’s funeral and or cremation. In Massachusetts, our particular case because our cremation fee is only $1,495, if we take advantage of the $2,000, we can get a simple cremation with a military urn, we can actually have the urn sent to the national cemetery and have military honors and have the urn interred. This person can have a full funeral and have a dignified funeral for next to nothing, because the state would pay for it, but they deserve it because they did the time.
John: Right. You mentioned a military urn, what is that?
Victor: Military urn, being military themed urn. We have one which is called the Old Glory, it’s a metal urn shape with a flag theme around it. There’s also all kinds of military emblems today that can be put on wooden urns or metal urns. We even have a flag case urn, so when you have the flag folded, there’s a glass front and the base of that is actually the urn, where the ashes go.
John: Oh, so the flag and the ashes [are] all in one case.
Victor: All in one, yes.
Application for VA Death Benefits
John: That’s nice. You mentioned that there’s an application, how do you get that process started?
Victor: The funeral home has the application, we help the family fill it out. It’s a little bit of paperwork that gets in, the only thing a family needs to provide is the copy of the DD214, which is the discharge papers. We fill that application out, mail it in. Paperwork process takes a little bit of time, but we can certainly help them with that.
John: Great, sounds good. Thank you very much for speaking with me today Victor.
Victor: Thanks John.
John: And for more information visit www.bostoncremation.org or call 781-322-0909.