On October 2 we had our fourth annual Stand Down to assist homeless and veterans in need here in our community. I would like to thank all involved in the endeavor: volunteers, vendors, and committee staff. Most of the staff was thanked at a recent award ceremony conducted by the Grant County Commissioners. I want to ensure the major contributors are given another warm “thank you,” so thanks for your continued support of veterans in need in our community to: Walmart, Round Robbins, Operation-Honor-Our-Veterans, the 9th Street Gang Car Club, and Scott and Victoria Winger.
Every active duty veteran who passes and is a resident of Grant County is entitled to a county burial allowance of $100, whether the veteran is buried or cremated. This allowance is provided under Indiana Code and can be allotted towards the veteran who passes or the spouse, but not both.
The family can also be reimbursed up to $100 for the placement of a free (actually, hard-earned) government headstone placed in a private cemetery. Most cemeteries charge for this placement or require a backer to be placed before the marker. The funeral home or cemetery can help apply for these benefits, there is no set time frame to apply. Most of the funeral homes here in Grant County do the applications for the family and have the families assign the monies to them as part of their bill. I just want you to understand this benefit is available to all active duty veterans who pass in our State!
Federal burial benefits are larger and can be a little more difficult to understand. Regulations say that “The veteran must also have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. In addition, at least one of the following conditions must be met:
• the veteran died as a result of a service-connected disability, OR
the veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR
• the veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided instead to receive his or her full military retirement or disability pay, OR
• the veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR
• the veteran 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
• the veteran had an original or reopened claim for VA compensation or pension pending at the time of death and would have been entitled to benefits from a date prior to the date of death, OR
• the veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home. “
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons the family can receive a federal burial allowance. For service connected deaths the VA will pay a $2,000 burial allowance. For service connected disabled veterans, the VA will pay $300 towards the burial and $745 towards the plot. If the veteran passes at the VA and is non-service connected, the VA will pay $745 burial allowance and $745 for a plot.
“If the death occurred while the veteran was properly hospitalized by VA, or under VA contracted nursing home care, some or all of the costs for transporting the veteran’s remains may be reimbursed.” These claims must be filed within a certain timeframe, so please contact your funeral home or the county service officer for assistance.
I get a lot of families who never file for the $745 plot allowance because the plot was given free or donated to them. If there is a charge for opening and closing the grave, this is a valid charge for the plot allowance that can be part of this reimbursement.
Remember all veterans are entitled to a burial flag, which will be ordered by the funeral home handling the remains. Along with a government headstone, if a veteran already has a private headstone they can choose a medallion (placed on the private headstone) to recognize their service.
Most veteran and spouses should know they could be buried at the VA national cemetery here in Grant County if they meet the requirements set by the VA Administration. Please contact the VA Cemetery directly or call my office at 765-651-2423 for details.
Bob Kelley is the veteran service officer for Grant County.