Veteran Cremation Costs: What Military Members and their Families Need to Know

Table of Contents

  1. Average Veteran Cremation Cost Versus Average Traditional Funeral Costs
  2. What Veteran Burial Benefits Can Help Families
  3. Veteran Cremation and Burial Benefits and Services
  4. Neptune Society’s Veteran Honor Package

The cost of cremation or burial is something that every family has to deal with. At Neptune Society, we know that dealing with such matters after losing a loved one can be hard, which is why we try to make it as easy as possible for families in need. For the loved ones of a veteran or military service member, understanding what benefits might be available can help ensure peace of mind as you work toward funeral or memorial arrangements.

This short guide looks at some basic information about costs associated with cremation or burial. It also includes some information about what types of benefits you can expect through the VA and government, and links to where you can find out more.

Average Veteran Cremation Cost Versus Average Traditional Funeral Costs

While costs vary widely across locations and due to varying needs and preferences of family members, on average, cremation is less expensive than a traditional burial and funeral. A direct cremation, which includes an urn, cremation prep costs and a final disposition, costs an average of around $1,100-$2,500.

The types of final disposition can include options such as scattering ashes, keeping ashes in an urn, or putting some ashes in a memorial container such as a piece of jewelry. Obviously, some dispositions may cost more — such as placement in the Neptune Memorial Reef or conversion of ashes to a tattoo. Find out more about final disposition options in our guide on what you can do with cremation ashes.

Note that these costs don’t include a memorial service. In general, a memorial service is held separately from the cremation and can take any form the family wants. You might choose to have a service at home, in a church, at a local reception hall, or even in a location that was meaningful for the departed, which means the budget for such an event is very much in the family’s hands. For ideas about memorial services and what could be involved, read this article on cremation memorial ideas.

In contrast with cremation costs, the costs for a traditional burial and funeral include things that are not negotiable, such as a casket, embalming and preparing the body, a headstone, gravesite preparation, a formal viewing and a cemetery plot purchase. The average cost for such services is approximately $11,000. Families can choose not to have a formal viewing, but a casket, preparation of the body and a gravesite are typically required.

While some families prefer burial for religious reasons or due to a desire for tradition, cremation is by far the most affordable choice.

What Veteran Burial Benefits Can Help Families

The VA provides burial benefits to eligible veterans to help cover the expense of cremation or a funeral. The VA doesn’t pay the money directly to any provider; the benefit is provided as a reimbursement. That means families must first pay for the cost associated with cremation or burial and then submit a request along with receipts. It can take up to six months for the VA to process these requests and for the family to receive the reimbursement check.

Families can submit an application/request for these benefits online or by submitting a VA Form 21-530, Application for Burial Allowance, to a local VA office.

Who Is Eligible for VA Veteran Burial Benefits?

To receive reimbursement, the family must first have paid for funeral, burial, or cremation services. If another government agency or the deceased’s employer reimburses the family, they can’t also receive reimbursement from the VA. If the services are gifted to the family by an organization or if they were handled pro bono (free of charge), then the family can’t submit a request to be reimbursed for them.

The reimbursement benefit is also not available if the veteran was dishonorably discharged. The family will need to have a DD Form 214,, which records the condition of a service member’s discharge, to prove that he or she is eligible for the benefit. In some cases, another official document that includes these details will be accepted; families can work with local VA office representatives if they experience challenges gathering the necessary information.

How Much Is the VA Veteran Burial Benefit?

The amount of the burial allowance reimbursement depends on when, how, and where the veteran passed away. If the person passed away in any way related to service, then the reimbursement is up to $2,000. Note that a service-related death is not the same as dying in combat. A service member did not have to pass away during active service or in combat for his or her passing to be related to service.

If the person passed away in a non-service related manner, then the reimbursement is up to $300. The exception is a non-service-related death that occurs while the veteran is admitted to a VA hospital, in which case the amount is up to $749.

What Documents Are Required to Receive Military Death Benefits?

In addition to the DD Form 214, which documents both a person’s military service and the condition of his or her discharge, families may have to submit:

  • Proof of death (a death certificate should suffice).
  • Receipts showing they made payment for burial or cremation services.
  • Receipts showing the veteran’s name, how much was charged for services, and any amounts previously paid by any entity.

Veteran Cremation and Burial Benefits and Services

Between $300 and $2,000 may not seem like a comprehensive benefit given that a traditional funeral with burial can run more than $11,000 on average, however, reimbursement of expenses is not the only benefit eligible veterans are afforded in relation to cremation and burial. If a former military service member is eligible for the reimbursements detailed above, the family may also receive burial-specific or cremation-specific benefits.

For example, any veteran who was not dishonorably discharged can receive — at no cost — a military detail of at least two people at his or her burial or memorial. That detail participates in a flag-folding ceremony, presents the family with the flag, and ensures Taps is appropriately played.

Burial-Specific Veteran Benefits

When a veteran or family opts for a traditional burial, they can claim some helpful benefits related to the final resting place. If the vet is buried in one of 131 national cemeteries across the country, then the gravesite is free. Not only that, but the family doesn’t have to pay to have the gravesite opened or closed, and they don’t have to make any financial arrangements to ensure the grave is cared for. Veteran graves in national cemeteries are cared for in perpetuity at no cost to families.

The family may also request a government-provided headstone and burial flag. Depending on the rules of the cemetery, you can usually choose from granite, marble, or bronze flat markers or granite or marble headstones. The government will provide a headstone or marker whether or not the veteran is buried in a national cemetery. If the family decides to provide its own headstone, they can still receive a memorial medallion honoring the veteran’s service to include on the headstone or gravesite.

Families of eligible veterans can also receive a Presidential Memorial Certificate. This is an engraved paper that honors the veteran’s service to his or her country.

Cremation-Specific Veteran Benefits

If a family or veteran chooses cremation, then some of the burial benefits are not relevant. If the veteran’s cremated remains are interred in a cemetery, then the family may request a memorial medallion to mark the site. They may also work with a national cemetery on free interment if a site is available. Other benefits that are still relevant include:

  • The Presidential Memorial Certificate.
  • Memorial honors services such as a flag folding and honor guard.
  • Reimbursement for expenses up to the allowed amount, as detailed above.

Neptune Society’s Veteran Services

Neptune Society recognizes the importance of honoring current and former military members and the service they gave to their country.

Neptune Society works closely with veterans via our affiliation with both the American Legion and VFW. We have a table at the regional conventions for both organizations, and we work with veterans and their families to help them understand and take advantage of burial benefits.

For more information about how we can help you honor your loved one or ensure you receive all the benefits he or she is eligible for, contact us today.


Published | Category: Resources.