Planning for the Future: VA Cemeteries

by Alex Horton

Though I only served in the Army a few years, my time in the service—especially my deployment—had a profound impact on my life. In the same way my grandfather still talks about his time in the Korean War, I’m sure it’ll remain just as important in my later years. I (hopefully) still have a lot of time left, but I’m already thinking about my burial and memorial benefits from the National Cemetery Administration (NCA).

Burial and memorial benefits tend to be one of the least known benefits available to Veterans. Some tend to disregard themselves because they assume only those who passed away on a battlefield are eligible. Of course, that’s not usually the case—and you should check VA’s website to learn about eligibility for yourself or a family member.

When a Veteran and his or her family decides to take advantage of their burial benefits, they can receive a Government headstone or marker—a traditional upright headstone or a flat marker. The burial flag is provided at no cost to drape over the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran. The Presidential Memorial Certificate is engraved and signed by the current President to honor the memory of the deceased Veteran. Also, NCA offers Emblems of Belief to be placed on the headstone or marker.

For those who plan on being buried in a private cemetery or already have an existing privately purchased headstone or marker, NCA provides medallions to be affixed to the grave. The medallions each read Veteran across the top and the branch of service is inscribed at the bottom.  

If you or a loved one is eligible for burial benefits, the next step would be to settle on a location to be interred. VA has 131 national cemeteries across the country in 39 states—with an option of being buried in a private cemetery as well.

So after you settle on a location to be interred, it’s best to start your preparation in advance. Let your family know your plans and where your discharge papers are kept. It’s important to keep in mind that gravesites cannot be reserved in advance. To schedule a burial, all discharge information should be faxed (1-866-900-6417) to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office with a follow up call to 1-800-535-1117 to start preparing.

This is a lot of information to digest, so to better understand the mission of NCA, check out the video below.


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