Military funerals offer a final farewell to service members and veterans as recognition and gratitude for their service and sacrifices. The ceremony includes the traditional honor guard playing taps and presenting a folded American flag to the family and other burial benefits and honors.
Funeral services for veterans and service members are customizable, but you’ll need to know how to plan a military funeral to receive all available benefits. Learn more about available services and advice to celebrate the life of a veteran or service member in your life.
1. Confirm Eligibility
You need to confirm your loved one’s eligibility for military funeral honors before planning their funeral. You can find a person’s service details with their DD 214 form, which you can request here. This document will confirm if an individual meets the following eligibility requirements:
- Military service members who died on active duty.
- Active military, naval, or air force veterans with honorable discharge.
- Selected reserve members or former members with honorable discharge.
Specific civilian groups that received active-duty determinations and members of the Commissioned Officers Corps of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administrations, may also be eligible for certain benefits.
Some military service members and veterans don’t qualify and will be denied funeral and burial benefits. Individuals with dishonorable discharges, those convicted of a federal or state capital crime, and those who are found guilty of a federal or state capital crime but can’t attend a trial for conviction are all ineligible.
2. Explore Military Burial Options
Next, you’ll need to decide where to bury your loved one if they haven’t already purchased a burial plot. You can cremate or bury your loved one and arrange interment in any civilian cemetery, national Veterans Affairs (VA) cemeteries, or state veteran cemeteries.
VA and state veteran cemetery plots are free for the family, and you can choose to bury the body or cremated remains. Cemetery benefits include:
- Burial plot and service
- Gravesite maintenance
- Government grave marker
- Burial flag
- Presidential Memorial Certificate
Veterans buried in a civilian cemetery can still receive a burial flag and government grave marker. The estate and family are responsible for other burial and funeral costs.
3. Apply For A Veteran Funeral Service
After confirming eligibility and your funeral plan, it’s time to apply for military funeral services and burial.
Your funeral director will help you confirm service plans and apply for military funeral honors. If you lost an active-duty service member, you can also contact your Casualty Assistance Officer for guidance.
Otherwise, you can apply for burial benefits with the VA. In any case, you’ll need:
- The Social Security number or VA file number
- Birth date and location
- Death date and location
- Military status
- The deceased’s DD214
- The deceased’s death certificate
- Statement of account from the funeral director or cemetery
- Documentation of the remains’ transportation costs (if applying for transportation reimbursement)
4. Consider Military Funeral Costs
The VA reimburses families for several service costs, including:
- Allowance for burial and funeral costs
- Allowance for a VA plot and burial costs
- Remains transportation reimbursement to reach the final resting place
Military benefits also include an honor guard service, flag ceremony, and government headstone as requested. These benefits add up and mean a military funeral can cost significantly less than civilian services.
Here’s an overview of some specific allowances for those who died after October 1, 2019:
|Non-service-connected Burial |
(Hospitalized by VA)
(Not hospitalized by VA)
Military Funeral Resources
Explore these resources if you want to learn more about specific military funeral service options, applications, and grief resources:
- Veteran Burial Allowances
- Burials for Unclaimed Veteran Remains
- National Cemetery Finder
- National Cemetery Gravesite Finder
- Headstone and Marker Options
Military Funeral Resources:
- Military Honor Customs
- Burial Flag Application
- VA Burial Benefits and Services
- Military Funeral Honors Brochure
Surviving Family Resources:
- VA Bereavement Counseling
- VA Survivor and Dependent Compensation
- Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors (TAPS)
- American Widow Project
- Military Families United
- Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
- Military OneSource
What’s Included In A Military Funeral?
Military funeral honors must include a two-person military detail to provide the following services:
- Military “Taps” performance
- Ceremonial flag folding and presentation
Every military funeral will include a flag draped over the casket, which is then folded in a ceremony and presented to the deceased’s next of kin. A bugle performance of “Taps” is also played to honor the dead.
You can incorporate other military honors depending on the military’s available resources and personnel, including:
- Rifle volley salute
- Color guard
- Military flyover
Get Burial Insurance For Veterans
Planning a military funeral can save on some typical burial costs, including the headstone and burial plot cost. But the VA won’t cover all of your expenses without life insurance, and planning ahead is important.
Explore burial insurance options to guarantee an honorable celebration of your loved one’s life, sacrifices, and interests without worrying about the funeral costs.