Funerals for veterans aim to honor those who have served our country with traditional aspects such as the honor guard playing taps, the offering of a folded flag to the family, as well as other benefits and honors. These funerals are customizable, but it is important to verify your status to understand what benefits and honors are available.
What is a military funeral?
Military funeral honors include a “Taps” performance and a flag folding ceremony and presentation. The service requires a two-person military detail for these services. A service member will play the “Taps” song and then the flag placed over the casket will be folded and presented to the family.
You can also include other honors like a 21-gun salute, color guard, pallbearers, and a flyover depending on the resources available.
Steps to apply for a Military Funeral
This resource lists a possible order to plan a veteran’s funeral, but it is important to take your own circumstances and timeline into consideration.
Before accessing benefits, you need to confirm the eligibility of your loved one. You do this using the person’s service details on their DD 214 form, you can also request this form. The form will confirm the eligibility as a military service member who died on active duty OR an active military, naval, or air force veteran with honorable discharge OR a selected reserve member or former reserve member with honorable discharge.
Other civilian groups with an active-duty determination or Commissioned Officers Corps of the Public Health Service or National Oceanic Atmospheric Administrations may be eligible as well.
Understanding Military burial options
You will need to decide where to bury your loved one. Veterans have the option to be buried in a Veterans Affairs cemetery or a state veteran cemetery for free. Cemetery benefits may include a burial plot and service, maintenance of the grave, a government grave marker, the burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.
A civilian cemetery is also an option, but the plot will not be free. Veterans buried in a civilian cemetery are still able to have the service with the burial flag and government grave marker.
The family will be responsible for all other burial and funeral costs.
Apply for the service
The funeral director at the funeral home and cemetery you choose will aid you in the service plan and funeral honors. If your loved one was an active-duty service member, you can contact a Casualty Assistance Officer for help. You can also apply for burial benefits with the VA.
To apply for the service, you will need:
- The Social Security number or VA file number
- Birth date and location
- Death date and location
- Military status
- The deceased’s DD214
- The deceased’s death certificate
- Statement of account from the funeral director or cemetery
- Documentation of the remains transportation costs (if applying for transportation reimbursement)
The Veterans Affairs office will reimburse families for some service costs like burial and funeral costs, a plot in a VA plot, and transportation. Additionally, the military personnel, flag, and headstone are included benefits.
Anything not on this list, like a wake, reception, or other parts of the service like flowers and programs will still be paid for by the family.
These resources supply more information about military funeral service, applications, and grief resources:
Military Funeral Resources:
- Military Honor Customs
- Burial Flag Application
- VA Burial Benefits and Services
- Military Funeral Honors Brochure
- Veteran Burial Allowances
- Burials for Unclaimed Veteran Remains
- National Cemetery Finder
- National Cemetery Gravesite Finder
- Headstone and Marker Options
Surviving Family Resources:
- VA Bereavement Counseling
- VA Survivor and Dependent Compensation
- Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors (TAPS)
- American Widow Project
- Military Families United
- Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
- Military OneSource