Burial and Memorial Benefits

Regular Air Force: Retired

Benefit Fact Sheet

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Airmen and Guardians who die while on active duty, Veterans discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and members of reserve components may be eligible for the following Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits: (1) burial in a VA national cemetery; (2) government-furnished headstone, marker or medallion; (3) Presidential Memorial Certificate; (4) burial flag; and in some cases, (5) Some Veterans may also be eligible for Burial Allowances. The service members' surviving spouse, dependent children, biological and adoptive parents and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children, may be eligible for burial in a national cemetery.

On April 12, 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.

Who can apply for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance? You may qualify if:

  1. You are a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who paid for funeral expenses after January 20, 2020, and
  2. The funeral expenses were for an individual whose death in the United States, territories or the District of Columbia, may have been caused by or was likely the result of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 incident period ended on May 11, 2023. FEMA will continue to provide funeral assistance until September 30, 2025, to those who have lost loved ones due to this pandemic.

Please visit the FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance website for more information: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/historic/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance



Burial in a Veterans Affairs Cemetery and associated benefits are generally available to any retiree discharged under conditions other than dishonorable who has met minimum active service duty requirements. The eligible retiree's surviving spouse, dependent children, under certain conditions, unmarried adult children, and biological or adoptive parents of a retiree may be eligible for burial. For specific eligibility requirements please go to the National Cemetery Eligibility page.

Burial in Arlington National Cemetery is available to retired Airmen, Guardians, and certain other Veterans who meet specific eligibility criteria. For more information on Arlington National Cemetery click here.

Benefit Highlights

Burial in VA National Cemeteries: VA provides Veterans and family members a variety of gravesite options for burial, though choices are limited to those available at a specific cemetery. These options may include in-ground casket burial, or internment of cremated remains in a columbarium, in-ground, or in a scatter garden.

Gravesites in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance. You should advise your family of your wishes and where your discharge papers are kept. These papers are very important in establishing your eligibility.

At the time of need your family would contact a funeral home who will assist them with making burial arrangements at the national cemetery. You may wish to make pre-need arrangements with a funeral home. To schedule a burial: Fax all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417 and follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.

Government Furnished Headstones, Markers or Medallions: Upon request, the VA furnishes (at no charge to the applicant) a government headstone or marker for the grave of any deceased eligible Veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death. Flat markers (granite, marble, or bronze) and upright headstones (granite or marble) are available. The style chosen must be consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Bronze niche markers are also available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains. For eligible Veterans that died on or after 1 Nov 1990 and whose grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone, VA may also furnish a headstone or marker to supplement the graves or a Medallion to be affixed to a privately Presidential Memorial Certificate purchased headstone.

Presidential Memorial Certificates (PMC): The Presidential Memorial Certificate is an engraved paper certificate, signed by the current President, to honor the memory of honorably discharged deceased Veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the PMC program by preparing the certificates which bear the current President's signature expressing the country's grateful recognition of the Veteran's service in the United States Armed Forces. You may be eligible for a Presidential Memorial Certificate if you meet both of the requirements listed below:

  • The Veteran or Reservist is eligible for burial in a national cemetery, and

  • You are the next of kin, family member, or close friend of the Veteran or Reservist (or an authorized service representative for a family member or friend of the Veteran or Reservist)

Note: In 2020, the VA began to automatically present a PMC to a Veteran’s next of kin at the burial when the Veteran is buried in a national cemetery. If the Family or close friends would like to request more than one PMC, they can apply for more copies using the Presidential Memorial Certificate Request Form (VA Form 40-0247).

Eligible recipients, or someone acting on their behalf, may apply for a PMC in person at any VA regional office or by U.S. mail or toll-free fax. Requests cannot be sent via email. Please be sure to enclose a copy of the Veteran's discharge and death certificate to verify eligibility. Submit copies only, as original documents will not be returned. 
VA Form 40-0247 Application for Presidential Memorial Certificate

Instructions for Ordering a PMC Online, In Person, by Mail or by Fax: This service is available for PMC requests for all Veterans that are buried in a Private Cemetery, State Veterans Cemetery, and in a VA national cemetery.

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 Air Force. The flag is furnished to honor Burial Flag AFthe memory of a Veteran's military service to the United States of America. 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. Families of Veterans buried in national cemeteries with an avenue of flags may donate the burial flags of their loved ones to be flown on patriotic holidays. You may apply for the flag by completing VA Form 27-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes.

VA Burial Allowances: Effective July 7, 2014, VA changed its monetary burial benefits regulations to simplify the program and pay eligible survivors more quickly and efficiently. These regulations will authorize VA to pay, without a written application, most eligible surviving spouses basic monetary burial benefits at the maximum amount authorized in law through automated systems rather than reimbursing them for actual costs incurred.

The new burial regulations will permit VA to pay, at a flat rate, burial and plot or interment allowances thereby enabling VA to automate payment of burial benefits to most eligible surviving spouses and more efficiently process other burial benefit claims. The burial allowance for a non-service-connected death is $300, and $2,000 for a death connected to military service.

You may be eligible for a VA burial allowance if:

  • You paid for a Veteran's burial or funeral, AND

  • You have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased Veteran's employer, AND

  • The Veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, AND

    • Died because of a service-related disability, OR

    • Was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR

    • Was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce their military retirement or disability pay, OR

    • Died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR

    • Died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care, OR

    • Had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date or death, OR

    • Died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

NOTE: VA does not pay burial benefits if the deceased:

  • Died during active military service, OR

  • Was a member of Congress who died while holding office, OR

  • Was a Federal prisoner

What the VA will pay:

Service-Connected Death

  • If the Veteran died on or after September 11, 2001, the maximum service-connected burial allowance is $2,000.

  • If the Veteran died before September 11, 2001, the maximum service-connected burial allowance is $1,500.

  • If the Veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, VA may reimburse some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased Veteran’s remains.

Non-Service-Connected Death

VA will pay up to $796 toward burial and funeral expenses for deaths on or after October 1, 2019 (if hospitalized by VA at time of death), or $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death), and a $796 plot-interment allowance (if not buried in a national cemetery). For deaths on or after December 1, 2001, but before October 1, 2011, VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance. For deaths on or after April 1, 1988, but before October 1, 2011, VA will pay $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (for Veterans hospitalized by VA at the time of death).

An annual increase in burial and plot allowances for deaths occurring after October 1, 2011, began in fiscal year 2013 based on the Consumer Price Index for the preceding 12-month period.

Unclaimed Remains

  • If a Veteran dies and their remains are unclaimed, the entity responsible for the burial of the Veteran would be entitled to a $300 burial allowance

  • If the Veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, VA may reimburse the cost of transporting the deceased Veteran’s remains. VA may also reimburse for the cost of a plot.

For information on how to apply and for tips on making sure your claim is ready to be processed by VA, visit the How to Apply page.

Additional Information

For more information, please visit the Burial and Memorial Benefits webpage maintained by VA:

Burial Benefits:

Air Force Casualty Operations:

Department of Veterans Affairs Survivor and Eligible Dependents Webpage:

Arlington National Cemetery:

Document Review Date: 30 April 2024