The public appreciates veterans for their valiant service, but arrangements for their burial or cremation remain somewhat of a mystery to most spouses and families. Giving a veteran a proper and fitting ending to their lives honors them but also gives their relatives left behind a sense of finality that assists with the grieving process.

Making the final arrangements for a veteran loved one who served isn’t too complicated but researching military tributes for your service member isn’t a bad idea either. A veteran’s final arrangements are not the same as for someone who didn’t serve in a distinguished branch of the military. Therefore, things are somewhat different including the provision of benefits to help with the costs involved with their final arrangements.

Memorial pre-planning

Dealing with a veteran’s memorial planning is something that you can learn about and work towards if you know that their time of passing is soon approaching. However, some of the planning and services cannot be booked in advance – particularly true with a burial in a national cemetery. As such, sometimes understanding the details gives surviving relatives or a spouse less stress and a greater ability to cope in the aftermath of their loss.

With pre-planning, locating the DD214 form covering Military Discharge is perhaps the most important thing. Without it, making military funeral arrangements or claiming VA funeral benefits becomes far more difficult. When a funeral is pre-planned, the funeral director may assist later with bookings and completing VA papers when relatives are highly distraught. For veterans, specifying their final wishes in an easily accessible letter is also helpful for planning purposes.

It’s not only burials that are considered acceptable as the final resting place for vets. In some states, cremation is becoming increasingly chosen for its simplicity, lower cost and lack of ongoing expenses. Because of different attitudes and beliefs across the country, however, the growth in cremation services over burials is clustered around certain states whereas some other states mostly reject the concept. It’s also a personal choice too, because relatives find comfort in being able to visit the grave-sight, which they cannot do with a cremation.

Cremation vs. burial

The debate of cremation vs burial is a personal one. Often, the veteran will have a firm view or have made their wishes known if they’re expecting to go into a combat situation with an uncertain future.

Within a couple of years, cremations nationally are expected to exceed traditional funeral arrangements reaching 56 percent. In the following ten years, this gap is expected to widen further. In 2012, the median cost of a funeral, nationwide, eclipsed $7,000 for the first time. Simply put, the reduced cost of a cremation over a funeral has become a preferred choice either when finances don’t stretch to a funeral arrangement, the veteran chose it, or didn’t express a preference either way.

As mentioned in the introduction, the rate of cremation differs widely state to state. In Washington, Nevada, Oregon, and across the Midwest, cremations are running over 70% nationally. However, many southern states including Mississippi and Louisiana see cremation rates holding near 20-30 percent only.

Veteran benefits for funerals at national cemeteries

It’s the responsibility of the National Cemetery Administration – which is part of the VA – to handle veteran benefits for burials. There are 131 national cemeteries which currently have space for new burials, including the National Cemetery in Arizona.

The benefits include a plot, burial, ongoing care of the site, a marker or headstone, a Presidential Memorial Certification, and a US flag. These are provided to eligible veterans at no charge on behalf of their families.

For a veteran’s memorial planning and burial purposes, final arrangements cannot be booked in advance.

Veteran benefits for funerals at local cemeteries

A local cemetery burial can be chosen instead of national one. This might be done for a number of reasons include personal preference, closer proximity, or the ability for more pre-planning.

There are burial benefits provided by the VA that work on a flat-rate basis covering a collection of related expenses. Spouses who are eligible following notification of a veteran’s death can receive funeral benefits immediately, before filing a claim. Other additional benefits may also be granted following the processing of a claim. Recent changes were made in this regard to speed up payment of initial burial benefits to aid spouses needing to complete arrangements for their loved one.

For families who expect to lose a loved one or suffer this fate during their service, there are provisions to help provide financial cover for different types of final arrangements. During the difficult time that Arizona residents have dealing with the loss of a partner who was an older veteran, or serving, it at least makes things just a little bit easier to manage. And that provides some small measure of comfort at a difficult time.