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A Little-Known Benefit: National Cemetery Adminstration (NCA)

by Weldon Lee, NVC VA Liaison Officer
September 2015, Volume 65, Issue 8

[Part 8 in a series on The Aid and Attendance (A&A) Program and Eligibility]

The Veterans Administration's National Cemetery Administration Eligibility requirements are extensive. 

Equally daunting is determining what is covered in “VA Burial Allowances” and “Survivor Benefits”.  They will each fill up more than an allowed space in two editions of the NVC Newsletter.  So I will try to be succinct as possible when we get to those subjects.

Scheduling a Burial at a National Cemetery can be overwhelming, but the staff are always helpful and respectful to the families of the deceased.  Step 1 is to submit the “Discharge Certificate” bearing an official seal.  They must be faxed to 866-900-6417 or scanned and emailed to NCA.Scheduling@va.gov.  Step 2 is to call a coordinator at 800-535-1117 and answer some preliminary questions.

Here in Washington State, Tahoma National Cemetery is located at 18600 S.E.240th St., Kent, WA 98042.    Fax all documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417.  Follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.  Oftentimes, due to the many burials in one day, the services are strictly limited to 30-40 minutes per service.  If you are unfamiliar with the service procedure, ask the coordinator to explain it to you or a family member.  Certain special requests can be made, but will only be allowed if time permits.

Let us revisit the “Burial of a Veteran in a Private Cemetery”.  You may want to ask the following questions when preparing for burial in a private cemetery:

  • When responding to an offer of a "free" gravesite for Veterans, ask if there is a requirement to purchase an additional gravesite.
  • If an additional gravesite is required, where will it be located and what is the cost?
  • What type of trust fund does the cemetery have to protect buyers?
  • Ask if there are restrictions on the type of headstone or marker that can be used to mark the grave.
  • Does the cemetery require a special marker base to be purchased prior to ordering a free government marker for a Veteran's grave?
  • Is there an additional cost for the placement, setting or care of a free government headstone or marker? Is it more than if a private headstone or marker is purchased?
  • Is an outside container (usually called a "vault" or "grave liner") required and how much does it cost?

Know what you are receiving and what is required by the company and have them put it in writing prior to burial.

If burial will be in a private cemetery and a Government headstone or marker or medallion will be requested for the Veteran’s grave, that the family should complete, in advance, VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker or VA Form 40-1330M, Claim for Government Medallion for Placement in a Private Cemetery and place it with the Veteran’s military discharge papers for use at the time of need.

Only an eligible Veteran may receive a Government-furnished headstone or marker or medallion for placement in a private cemetery.  Veteran’s spouses and dependent children are not eligible.

Burial at Sea.  The National Cemetery Administration cannot provide burial at sea.  For more assistance  about the Burial at Sea program, please contact the United States Navy Mortuary Affairs office toll-free at 1-866-787-0081. Or contact the Department of the Navy for information.  Active duty members and Veterans buried at sea may be eligible for a Government-furnished headstone or marker.

Military Funeral Honors.  The Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for providing military funeral honors.  "Honoring Those Who Served" is the title of the DOD program for providing dignified military funeral honors to Veterans who have defended our nation.

Upon the family's request, Public Law 106-65 requires that every eligible Veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, to include folding and presenting the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps.  The law defines a military funeral honors detail as consisting of two or more uniformed military persons, with at least one being a member of the Veteran's parent service of the armed forces.  The DOD program calls for funeral home directors to request military funeral honors on behalf of the Veterans' family.  However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) NCA cemetery staff and Veteran organizations can also assist with arranging military funeral honors at VA national cemeteries.  When military funeral honors at a national cemetery are desired, they are arranged prior to the committal service by the funeral home.

Questions or comments concerning the DOD military funeral honors program may be sent to:   Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, (Military Community and Family Policy), 4000 Defense Pentagon, Room 5A726, Washington DC 20380.  The military funeral honors Web site is: www.dmdc.osd.lmil/mfh/

To arrange military funeral honors, contact your local funeral home.

Burial Flags

A United States flag is provided, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces.  It is furnished to honor the memory of a Veteran’s military service to his or her country.  The VA will furnish a burial flag for memorialization for each other than dishonorable discharged:

  • Veteran who served during wartime
  • Veteran who died on active duty after May 27, 1941
  • Veteran who served after January 31, 1955
  • peacetime Veteran who was discharged or released before June 27, 1950
  • certain persons who served in the organized military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines while in service of the U.S. Armed Forces and who died on or after April 25, 1951
  • certain former members of the Selected Reserves

Who Is Eligible to Receive the Burial Flag?
Generally, the flag is given to the next-of-kin, as a keepsake, after its use during the funeral service.  When there is no next-of-kin, VA will furnish the flag to a friend making request for it.  For those VA national cemeteries with an Avenue of Flags, families of Veterans buried in these national cemeteries may donate the burial flags of their loved ones to be flown on patriotic holidays.

Apply for the flag by completing VA Form 27-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes.  U.S. Post Offices are the primary issuing point for burial flags.  Generally, the funeral director can help you obtain a flag.  If they are unhelpful, call and confirm with the post office in advance for not all local post offices have burial flags on hand.  Regional VA Offices can also help identify local issuing points.

The law allows the issuance of only one flag for a Veteran's funeral.  However, some Veterans' or other community groups may be able to help you get another flag.

How Should the Burial Flag Be Displayed?
The proper way to display the flag depends upon whether the casket is open or closed.  VA Form 27-2008 provides the correct method for displaying and folding the flag.  The burial flag is not suitable for outside display because of its size and fabric. It is made of cotton and can easily be damaged by weather.

In the next issue (Part 9), we will cover VA Burial Allowances, Service-connected and Non Service-Connected Deaths.  Please continue to have a nice and safe summer!!