Larry Dandridge

Who at the VA do I call if my Veteran expires, what does a National Cemetery burial include?


After reading last week’s article in The Island News entitled Three VA Administrations and VA Memorial Benefits, a deceased veteran’s surviving spouse called me and asked me, “Who do I call at the VA to notify the VA that my husband has passed away?”

Initial Phone Notification

I told her that she needed to call the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Benefits number, 1-800-827-1000 or 1-877-899-4400. When a veteran dies, an immediate surviving family member (spouse, daughter, son, or other closest surviving member) needs to call the VBA Benefits number and make a formal notification of death.

Before calling the VBA Benefits number the survivor should have their veteran’s full name, branch of service, and social security account number ready to give to the VBA Benefits representative. When the family member calls, the VBA representative will answer any questions he or she has and will:

Check to see if your veteran has any VA life insurance.

Check and see if your veteran has any kind of pension.

Send you a survivor’s and burial packet.

The survivor’s and burial packet will have in it:

A survivor’s pension application.

Burial reimbursement information and a reimbursement application.

A transportation reimbursement application.

Application for burial headstone or marker.

Mail or FAX Death Certificate and Social Security Number

After the phone call, the surviving spouse will need to mail or fax the VBA a copy of the death certificate and deceased veteran’s social security number. Mail to:

VBA, Pension Intake Center, PO Box 5365, Janesville, WI 53547 or

FAX to VBA, Pension Intake Center at 844-655-1604.

“What does burial in a VA national cemetery include?”

Another surviving family member of a deceased veteran asked recently, “What does burial in a VA national cemetery include? I told him he can find the answers to that question at https://bit.ly/3G3whhv.

I went on to tell him when a veteran, service member, or family member qualifies for burial in a VA national cemetery, they receive certain burial benefits at no cost to their family. VA burial benefits include:

A gravesite in any of the VA’s national cemeteries with available space. A surviving family member can find a cemetery at the following VA website: https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp.

Opening and closing of the grave.

A burial liner provided by the government.

A headstone or marker provided by the government – https://bit.ly/3fUpFYw.

Perpetual care of the gravesite.

VA Memorial Items and Military Funeral Honors

I went on to explain to the survivor that at the time of need, the person planning the burial can also request other VA memorial items as well as military funeral honors provided by the Department of Defense. These items and honors have other eligibility requirements.

Read about VA provided memorial items at https://bit.ly/3qYiSmU. Read about military funeral honors at https://bit.ly/33IT6u6.

National Cemeteries

According to the VA website at https://bit.ly/3fRIsn6, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Cemetery Administration maintains 155 national cemeteries in 42 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 34 soldier’s lots and monument sites. There is not a VA national cemetery in every state.

State, Territory, and Tribal Veterans Cemeteries

Many states have established state veterans’ cemeteries. Eligibility is similar to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries, but may include residency requirements.

Even though they may have been established or improved with Government funds through the VA’s Veterans Cemetery Grants Program, state veterans cemeteries are run solely by the states. The VA cannot answer your questions or comments about any of these state veterans’ cemeteries. Contact the specific cemetery for information.

National Cemeteries in SC

There are three National Cemeteries in SC. They are listed below.

The Beaufort National Cemetery at 1601 Boundary Street, Beaufort, S.C. 29902. Phone number: 843-524-3925 and FAX: 843-524-8538.

The Florence National Cemetery at 803 National Cemetery Road, Florence, S.C. 29501. Phone number 843-669-8783 and FAX: 843-662-8318.

The Fort Jackson National Cemetery, 4170 Percival Road, Columbia, S.C. 29229. Phone number 866-577-5248 and FAX 803-699-3086.

Every living veteran and his closest relatives and all local funeral homes should download and read the Department of Veteran Affairs National Cemetery Administration brochure at https://bit.ly/3fUwjxL. Funeral homes should keep copies of this brochure to give to the families of veterans.

The brochure includes a map showing where cemeteries are located and information on:

Burial eligibility; benefits information including the phone number of the nearest VBA Regional Office 800-827-1000; arranging a burial with FAX number 866-900-6417; and phone number 800-535-1117 for the VA Scheduling Office.

Pre-Need Determination VA Form 40-1007 and instructions to mail or FAX the form and DD-214; Headstones, Markers, and Medallions; Presidential Memorial Certificates.

VA provided burial flags and to use VA Form 27-2008, Application for U.S. Flag for Burial Purposes and notification that U.S. Post Offices are the primary issuing point for burial flags.

Nationwide Gravesite Locator found at http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov and at the kiosks at national cemeteries; and the Veterans Legacy Initiative (information can be found at www.cem.va.gov/legacy).

Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery

Read about eligibility in last week’s The Island News article on veterans’ benefits and at https://bit.ly/3tXyZTI.

Schedule a Burial for a Veteran or Family Member

Read about how to schedule a burial for a veteran or other family member in last week’s The Island News article on veterans’ benefits and at https://bit.ly/3AvOROh.

Need more help?

If veterans and their family members need help with veteran burial benefits and programs, they should contact their county Veterans Service Office (VSO). Find the address and phone numbers for your country Veterans Service office at https://bit.ly/35mpWBm.

Other helpful points of contact include:

The National Cemetery Scheduling Office, phone 800-535-1117, and Headstones and Markers Office, phone 800-697-6947.

VA Benefits Hotline, 800-827-1000, MyVA411 main information line, 800-698-2411 and if you have hearing loss, call TTY-711.

Larry Dandridge is a retired Lt. Col. In the U.S. Army. He is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100 percent disabled veteran, a former Infantryman, former Warrant Officer and pilot. Dandridge is also a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Medical Center, as well as a published author and free-lance writer. He can be reached at LDandridge@earthlink.net.

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