By Marie Ardiito
Co-founder, Massachusetts Retirees United (www.retireesunited.org)
If your loved one was a veteran and passed away, you may be entitled to a burial benefit that you did not know existed. Because this is a federal benefit the state in which you reside when death occurred does not matter. A veteran’s agent told me this benefit has been around for at least 30 years. The amounts have increased over the years, as the Department of Veterans Affairs sees the need to increase it. Presently, the amount is $335. Whether the death is service or non-service related also doesn’t matter. A spouse, child, parent, executor/administrator of an estate, or another can apply for this benefit.
Call your veteran’s agent from the Department of Veterans Affairs and ask him/her to file the form entitled “Application for Burial Benefits” (Under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 23). My town’s veterans’ agent said it could take up to six months to receive the benefit. He also said he would do the filing once he received the necessary paper work from the funeral director.
I have talked to a number of people who lost someone who qualified for this benefit and they never remember getting it. I told them to contact the veteran’s agent and start the process no matter when the person passed. I have since learned that you must apply within two years of the veteran’s passing, but let your veteran’s agent tell you that.
I sent this information as an email to our members, as I did not want someone to lose out on the benefit by a few months because of waiting for The Advocate or our newsletter, Matters. I have heard from some who told me their veteran’s agent told them they had to die in a VA Hospital to get it. This is not true. Another said it was only for those who died from a war related cause. That is also not true. This benefit is for anyone classified as a veteran.
I mentioned this at a bereavement meeting of seven women, six of whom had lost husbands - all veterans. None of them knew of it. The seventh had lost her father, but told the group to pursue the benefit and not believe that the death had to be in a VA Hospital or under certain circumstances. She said her mother-in-law had been given misinformation as well, but kept pursuing it and received the benefit. If you have trouble with this contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will refer the matter to a veterans’ agent who is knowledgeable about the situation.
I would never have known about this or applied if my husband had not put together a booklet telling me what to look into on his passing. So, if you have vets that are still in your life record this information somewhere for further notice.
In order to get full military honors for a veteran all you have to do is request this of the Funeral Director when you are making the funeral arrangements. They will take care of this for you and there is no charge for this. Also, let the Funeral Director know you want a plaque put on the grave that will contain the vets name and the war/time in which they served. You will be asked if you want the plaque in bronze or granite. The Funeral Director will send it off. You notify the veteran’s agent in the community where the internment occurs in order to get the flag and flag holder put on the grave.
MRU continues to have a commitment to the fine men and women who served our country and were left behind when those actively working were allowed to count up to four of their military years toward their creditable service on retiring. That includes all those who retired prior to July 24, 1996. In a future issue of The Advocate we will provide you with information on this bill as well as other bills we are asking to have filed.
Veterans Day is more than one day a year - November 11 and we should remember their sacrifice more than on one day in May. MRU truly believes that the best way to show our gratitude to our veterans is to acknowledge their service by granting this creditable service and helping vets get all that they are entitled to receive. If you served this country in uniform, thank you for this service, and if you are a family member of one who served thank you as well.
We have all attended performances in which those who served their country were asked to stand when the song was played for the branch of the military in which they served and be recognized for their service. They stand tall and straight with great pride no matter how bent their aging bodies are or how long ago it was that they served. It is about time that we stand up for them and get a benefit that was due them twenty years ago. Let’s serve our veterans as well as they have served us!