The widow, widower or spouse of a veteran of the U.S. armed services may be entitled to certain burial benefits from the government.
Veterans' Widows and Widowers
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the widow, widower or spouse of an eligible veteran is entitled to burial in a national veterans cemetery, even if the veteran is not buried there. In addition, the widow or widower of a deceased veteran who remarried a non-veteran and whose death took place after Jan. 1, 2000, is also entitled to burial in a national veterans cemetery.
Eligible veterans include any person who has served for a minimum of two years in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard and died on duty or died after any discharge other than dishonorable. Individuals who received a dishonorable discharge and their widows/widowers are not entitled to burial in a veterans cemetery.
What the VA Provides
The VA does not perform cremations or make funeral arrangements. The family of the deceased must do this. However, the VA does provide the grave plot, the opening and closing of the plot, care for the plot, a government headstone, American flag and Presidential Memorial Certificate, all for free. The VA also has some funds available to help families in need offset the costs of funeral arrangements. Cremated remains receive the same benefits, substituting placement or the remains in a columbarium (a building designed to hold the ashes of the deceased) or their burial.
There are 130 national cemeteries available for the widows or widowers of eligible veterans. Every state except Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming has at least one national cemetery.
For private burials that do not take place at national cemeteries, the VA provides a free government headstone, American flag and Presidential Memorial Certificate. As with burials at national cemeteries, there are some funds available to cover burial costs for families in need. For complete information about burial assistance, call the VA at (800) 827-1000.