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M21-1, Part VII, Chapter 1, Section A – General Information on Burial Benefits and Allowances

Overview


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic
Topic Name
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3
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 1.  Definitions of Burial Benefit Terms


Introduction


Change Date

October 25, 2018

VII.1.A.1.a.  Definition:  Burial

Burial includes all the various recognized methods of disposing of the remains of deceased persons.  Examples include

  • cremation
  • burial at sea
  • medical school donation, and
  • alkaline hydrolysis.

Reference:  For more information on the recognized methods of disposing of the remains of deceased person, see 38 CFR 3.1700(b).


VII.1.A.1.b.  Definition:  Cremation

cremation is a burial, regardless of what is done with the ashes.

VII.1.A.1.c. Definition:  Burial at Sea

burial at sea occurs when the deceased Veteran’s body is committed to the sea.
Note:  Burial at sea is not considered a final resting place for Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) purposes and is not eligible for plot or interment allowance.

VII.1.A.1.d. Definition:  Medical School Donation

medical school donation is considered a recognized method of disposing of remains if the deceased Veteran’s body is turned over to a medical school for scientific purposes.

VII.1.A.1.e.  Definition:  Alkaline Hydrolysis

Alkaline hydrolysis, also known as “green cremation,” is a water-based dissolution process for human remains that uses alkaline chemicals to accelerate natural decomposition.
Alkaline hydrolysis is a burial for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) purposes in States in which alkaline hydrolysis is a lawful method for disposing of human remains.
Note:  Alkaline hydrolysis is only approved as a form of burial in States where it is considered a legal form of cremation.

VII.1.A.1.f.  Definition:  Plot

plot is the final disposal site of the remains.
Synonyms:  Burial plot, interment site, or final resting place.
Examples:  Grave, mausoleum, vault, columbarium niche, or other site.
Note:  Consider the plot to be the
  • grave where the casket is buried, not the casket itself, or
  • columbarium niche containing the cremation urn, not the urn itself.

VII.1.A.1.g.  Definition:  Interment

Interment is the act of placing the remains of a deceased person in a final resting place.
Examples:
  • Placing the remains of a deceased person’s body into a grave.
  • Placing the remains (cremated remains) of a deceased person into a columbarium niche.

VII.1.A.1.h. Definition:  Unclaimed Veteran Remains

Unclaimed Veteran remains are the remains of an identified Veteran
  • who has not been claimed by relatives or friends
  • who does not have sufficient resources available in the Veteran’s estate to cover the burial and funeral expenses, and
  • whose burial is not the responsibility of any other Federal, State, or local agency.
Note:  The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is responsible for burial payments and arrangements for the unclaimed remains of Veterans who die while hospitalized under VA medical care.
 
References:  For more information on Veterans who died while hospitalized under VA medical care and are unclaimed, see

VII.1.A.1.i.Definition:  Nearest National Cemetery 

The nearest national cemetery is

  • a cemetery
    • under the jurisdiction of VA National Cemetery Administration (NCA) or Arlington National Cemetery
    • that is the closest, geographically, to the Veteran’s last place of residence
    • where space is available, and
    • where the Veteran is eligible for burial, or
  • a national cemetery where burial space was reserved for the Veteran, usually when there has been interment in that space of a dependent who died before the Veteran died.

VII.1.A.1.j.  Definition:  Last Place of Residence

The last place of residence is the place where the Veteran lived at the time of death.  It is normally the legal domicile but includes a temporary residence if it is more advantageous to the claimant.
Generally, it is not necessary to develop to ascertain or verify the place of last residence.  Unless the claimant affirmatively shows it to be elsewhere, accept the place of last residence as the
  • home address to which checks were being mailed, if the Veteran was in receipt of VA benefits at the time of death (a home address is not a bank address, post office box, or the address of a fiduciary), or
  • address shown as the residence of the deceased on the death certificate.
Examples:
  • A Veteran had a legal domicile and a temporary residence at time of death.
  • A Veteran was in a nursing home located in Florida, but the Veteran’s primary address is shown as Alabama.  For VBA purposes, the Veteran’s last place of residence is Alabama and VBA can reimburse transportation expenses equivalent to the nearest national cemetery to the Veteran’s residence in Alabama.
Note:  A nursing home is considered a temporary residence if a Veteran still owns his/her home.  Do not develop for the address, use the Veteran’s permanent address as the last place of residence.
 
Reference:  For more information on the last place of residence in relation to transportation allowance, see 38 U.S.C. 2308.

VII.1.A.1.k. Definition:  Place of Death

The place of death is the place shown by the death certificate or other acceptable evidence of death.
Reference:  For more information on acceptable evidence of death, see 38 CFR 3.211.

VII.1.A.1.l. Definition: Types of Burial Benefits

VBA provides the following five burial benefits:
  • service-connected (SC) burial allowance
  • non-service-connected (NSC) burial allowance
  • VA hospitalization death burial allowance
  • plot or interment allowance, and
  • transportation reimbursement
Note:  NCA processes claims for headstones, markers, and burial flags.
References:  For more information on

2.  Time Limit for Filing Claims


Introduction

This topic contains information on time limits, including

Change Date

March 17, 2017

VII.1.A.2.a.  Time Limits for Filing a Burial Claim

Claims for the NSC burial allowance must be filed within two years of the date of permanent burial or cremation of the Veteran.  Payment may not exceed the statutory rate in effect at the time of the burial.
There is no time limit for applying for the
  • SC burial allowance
  • VA hospitalization death burial allowance
  • plot or interment allowance, or
  • transportation reimbursement.
Note:  In some cases, the burial allowance is not payable at the time of the Veteran’s death because of the character of the Veteran’s discharge.  If, after the Veteran’s death, the discharge is upgraded by a competent authority so as to reflect a discharge under conditions other than dishonorable, a claim may be filed within two years from date of correction of the discharge.
 
Reference:  For more information on statutory burial rates, see Burial, Plot, and Headstone/Marker Historical Rates.

VII.1.A.2.b.  Claim Filed on Behalf of a Deceased Funeral Director

In some cases, a claim may not be filed during the lifetime of the funeral director who provided services for a Veteran whose remains are unclaimed.
In this situation, payment may be made to the person responsible for distributing the deceased funeral director’s estate if the responsible person submits the claim and necessary evidence within the established time limit of the Veteran’s burial.
 
Note:  Funeral home directors and other third-party claimants filing on behalf of a deceased funeral home director cannot receive burial benefits unless they provided services for the unclaimed remains of a Veteran.

3.  Priority of Payments


Introduction


Change Date

March 17, 2017

VII.1.A.3.a.  Automatic Payments to an Eligible Surviving Spouse

VBA automatically pays a burial and plot or interment allowance to an eligible surviving spouse without a claim, when VA is able to determine burial benefit eligibility based on evidence of record or when the surviving spouse is added at the time of the first notice of death (NOD) is processed.
A surviving spouse may file a VA Form 21P-530Application for Burial Benefits, for additional burial benefits, including
  • the plot or interment allowance, if not paid during the automated process
  • the SC burial allowance under 38 CFR 3.1704,
  • VA hospitalization death burial allowance, and
  • reimbursement for transportation.
Notes:
  • Automated plot or interment allowance is paid in cases where Veterans are not buried in a State or national cemetery.
  • Automated burial and/or plot or interment allowance payment is triggered by the FIRST NOTICE OF DEATH (FNOD) command and paid to the surviving spouse of record or when the spouse is added at time of NOD processing.
Reference:  For more information on adding a surviving spouse at the time of NOD, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 8.A and B.

VII.1.A.3.b.  Priority of Claimants

For all burial benefits not paid automatically to the eligible surviving spouse, VBA may pay the applicable burial benefit to the first person to file a claim for burial benefits from the list of eligible claimants

  • Veteran’s surviving spouse
  • survivor of a legal union between the deceased Veteran and the claimant that
    • existed on the date of the Veteran’s death
    • was recognized under the law of the State in which the couple formalized the relationship, and
    • was evidenced by the State’s issuance of documentation memorializing the relationship
  • Veteran’s child, regardless of age
  • Veteran’s parent, or
  • the executor or administrator of the Veteran’s estate or a person acting for the executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased Veteran.

Exceptions:  The provisions of priority of claimants do not apply

  • to a State, or an agency or political subdivision of a State, when claiming plot or interment allowance for burial in a State Veterans cemetery or other cemetery, or
  • for the burial of a Veteran whose remains are unclaimed.

Notes:

  • If either the Executor/Administrator of Estate or Other box is checked on the VA Form 21P-530, or if no box is checked at all, and  no executor or administrator of the estate has been appointed, a family member without documentation of executor or administrator of the estate will be considered the person acting for the estate.  VBA may pay burial benefits based on a claim filed by a person acting for such estate who will distribute the burial benefits to the person or persons entitled to such distribution under the laws of the Veteran’s last State of residence.
  • Payment of the NSC burial allowance is authorized to funeral directors when a Veteran’s remains are unclaimed.

References:  For more information on


VII.1.A.3.c.  Proof of Executorship or Administrator

Specific documentation is not required to show that a claimant is the executor or administrator of the estate for burial benefit payments unless there is evidence to suggest that the claimant is not the executor or administrator.  If the evidence shows that the claimant may not be the executor or administrator, the following documentation is required:

  • letter of administration, or
  • letter of representation.

Note:  Documentation to show that a claimant is the executor or administrator must be provided for accrued claims.


VII.1.A.3.d.  Burial Claims Received From Funeral Homes

Burial claims from funeral homes may be paid for a Veteran whose remains are unclaimed.
Claims received from funeral homes that are not for unclaimed Veterans remains must be denied.  In the denial letter include the following text:
The regulations regarding VA Burial Benefits changed on July 7, 2014.   VA no longer prioritizes payment to funeral directors, funeral homes, or other service providers unless the Veteran’s remains are unclaimed. VA will pay burial benefits automatically to surviving spouses upon the first notice of death, or to the first living person to file of the following priority claimants: surviving spouse, survivor of a legal union, children (regardless of age), parent(s), or the executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased Veteran. Therefore, we have denied your claim for VA burial benefits under the new regulations, as there is no indication that the Veterans remains are unclaimed
  
Reference:  For more information on unclaimed remains, see M21-1, Part VII, 1.B.7.

VII.1.A.3.e.  Payment to a Person Who Murders a Veteran

Payment of burial benefits to a person who murders a Veteran is not barred.
Reference:  For more information on restriction of payment to a person who murders a Veteran, see 38 CFR 3.11.

4.  Required Evidence for Burial Benefits


Introduction


Change Date

March 21, 2019

VII.1.A.4.a. Burial Forms

For burial benefits not automatically processed, a VA Form 21P-530, is required and must contain the signature of the claimant.
For State consolidated claims for plot or interment allowance, a VA Form 21P-530a, State Application for Interment Allowance under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 23 is required.
For reimbursement of headstone or marker expense claims, a VA Form 21P-8834, Application for Reimbursement of Headstone or Marker Expense, is required and must contain the signature of the claimant.
Important:  If the application does not contain the applicant’s signature, the claim is considered an incomplete application, per M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 2.B.3.f.  Do not process the claim; follow procedures on handling an incomplete application.  Claims filed electronically through an on-line application are exempt from the signature requirement.  The exception to the signature requirement is when the claim is filed electronically through an on-line application.
Notes:
  • If the funeral home is the proper claimant on the application, a stamped signature on the application is acceptable.  There is no requirement for a wet signature.
  • VA accepts electronically filed versions of VA Form 21P-530, to include those submitted through www.Vets.gov.
  • Pay burial benefits only if applicant meets eligibility requirements.
  • If the entire section Part III of VA Form 21P-530 is left blank, deny the claim for burial allowance.
  • If  the entire section Part IV and/or Part V of VA Form 21P-530 are blank, deny claims for plot or interment allowance and/or transportation reimbursement.
  • All burial decision letters should contain the requirements listed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart v, 2.B.1.b.

References:  For more information on


VII.1.A.4.b.  Signed VA Form 21P-530 Application Versions Prior to April 2017

For signed claims on a VA Form 21P-530, (application versions prior to April 2017), follow the chart below.
If VA Form 21P-530 is signed by applicant and the block DID YOU INCUR EXPENSES is …
Then …
checked Yes
pay all burial benefits only if eligibility exists.
blank
develop for missing evidence, unless claimant provides other evidence that the expenses were incurred.
checked No
deny all burial benefits, unless claimant provides other evidence that the expenses were incurred.

VII.1.A.4.c.  Signed VA Form 21P-530 and Incurred Expenses for the Veterans Burial on the Application Version Dated April 2017

For signed claims on a VA Form 21P-530, and incurred expenses for the Veterans burial (application version April 2017), follow the chart below.
If VA Form 21P-530 is signed by applicant and the block DID YOU INCUR EXPENSES FOR THE VETERANS BURIAL? is …
Then …
checked Yes
pay all burial benefits only if eligibility exists.
blank
develop for missing evidence, unless claimant provides other evidence that the expenses were incurred.
checked No
deny the burial allowance, unless claimant provides other evidence that the expenses were incurred.

VII.1.A.4.d.  Signed VA Form 21P-530 and Incurred Expenses for the Veterans Plot or Interment on the Application Version Dated April 2017

For signed claims on a VA Form 21P-530, and incurred expenses for the Veterans plot or interment (application version April 2017), follow the chart below.

If VA Form 21P-530 is signed by applicant and the block DID YOU INCUR EXPENSES FOR THE VETERANS PLOT OR INTERMENT? is …
Then …
checked Yes
pay the plot or interment allowance,only if eligibility exists.
Important:  Plot allowance should not be paid to a claimant when the Veteran is buried in a State Veterans or national cemetery.
blank
develop for missing evidence, unless claimant provides other evidence that the expenses were incurred.
checked No
deny the plot or interment allowance, unless claimant provides other evidence that the expenses were incurred.

VII.1.A.4.e. Example:  Benefits Requested Not Checked on VA Form 21P-530 

Situation:  A VA Form 21P-530 is received, however, there is no benefit requested.
Result:  Review the claim to determine if the Veteran was rated 100 percent SC at the time of death (excluding individual unemployability (IU)).  If the Veteran was rated 100 percent SC at the time of death (excluding IU), grant SC burial allowance.
If the Veteran was not rated 100 percent SC at time of death, assume the NSC burial allowance is being claimed and process the application.  Notify the claimant that
  • the Benefits Requested box was not checked and he/she must resubmit aVA Form 21P-530 with the SC Death box checked if they are claiming SC burial allowance, and
  • there is no time limit to apply for the SC burial allowance.
Reference:  For more information on when to send a claim for SC death for a rating decision, see M21-1, Part VII, 1.B.2.c.

VII.1.A.4.f.  Proof of Death

Proof of death is required for burial claims under 38 CFR 3.1703(b)(1)(ii).
If proof of death does not accompany the claim, it may be obtained verbally.  VBA will accept evidence if it reasonably indicates that a beneficiary is deceased.

Notes:

  • All verbal information reported to VBA must be documented on a VA Form
  • Include documentation of the name and contact information of the individual providing the information.
  • Information received from the Social Security Administration (SSA) Death Match is an indicator of proof of death, such as SSA Death Match or SSA inquiry.
  • For claims of SC death where a rating decision is needed, a death certificate or other acceptable proof of death as outlined in 38 CFR 3.211that specifies a cause of death is required.
  • If proof of death is not received after development for the evidence, and eligibility to NSC burial allowance exists, grant the NSC burial allowance and explain in the decision notice that evidence of the proof of death specifying a cause of death is required to grant the SC burial allowance.

References:  For more information on


VII.1.A.4.g. Itemized Receipt or Statement for Transportation Reimbursement

An itemized receipt or statement is required for a claim for transportation reimbursement.
The itemized receipt or statement must show the
  • name of the deceased Veteran for whom the services and transportation were furnished
  • nature and cost of the services and transportation
  • name of the claimant that files for transportation reimbursement, and
  • dates of the services rendered.
Notes:
  • If transportation reimbursement is claimed, and the amount of expenses incurred on the application is more than the itemized receipt, pay transportation reimbursement of the charges listed on the itemized receipt and solicit for the additional transportation costs incurred in the decision notice.
  • If the statement or receipt does not show any transportation expenses, deny and develop in the decision letter.
  • If transportation reimbursement is claimed, and the receipt is not itemized, VBA may accept phone call development to the funeral home to obtain an itemized statement.
  • If you cannot contact the funeral home, deny and develop in the decision letter.
  • VA will reimburse for transportation expenses that are incurred as claims on the application and verified through the statement of account.  Statements or receipts do not have to show paid in full, only that expenses were incurred.
References:  For more information on

  

 5.  Automated Burial and Plot or Interment Allowance


Change Date

March 17, 2017

VII.1.A.5.a.  How VBA Generates an Automated Burial and Plot or Interment Payments

The table below describes the automated burial payment process.
Step
Action
1
VBA processes a Veteran’s NOD using the FNOD command.
Follow instructions listed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 8.AC for processing a FNOD.
 
Note:  The MONTH-OF-DEATH (MOD) screen defaults to a check mark which is equivalent to a yes in the VET BURIED IN STATE OR NATIONAL CEMETERY field.
Example:
This is the image of the Vet Buried in State or National Cemetery box in Share
If the answer to the VET BURIED IN STATE OR NATIONAL CEMETERY field is …
Then …
yes
the box will remain checked.
Note:  A check mark in this box means that the automated plot or interment allowance will not be paid.
no
remove the check mark from the box.
Notes:
  • Removing the check mark means the automated plot or interment allowance will be paid to the surviving spouse.
  • When VA receives information that a Veteran is not buried in a State or national cemetery, and later determines that the Veteran is buried in a State or national cemetery, VA will recoup the plot or interment allowance.
unknown
the box will remain checked.
Note:  If the individual reporting the death of a Veteran does not know whether a Veteran is buried in a State or national cemetery, inform him/her that there is no time limit to apply for the plot or interment allowance.
2

If there is a surviving spouse of record or added at time of FNOD processing, VBA sends an automated letter informing him/her

  • that he or she will receive the applicable burial and plot or interment allowance
  • of additional survivor and burial benefits that he or she may be entitled to, and
  • that he or she must apply for these additional burial benefits with an application.
3
VBA systems wait six days to ensure there is no notification to VA that the burial or plot or interment allowance should not be paid.
4
The following table describes the next step:
If, after the six-day waiting period …
Then …
no information is received indicating the burial and/or plot or interment allowance should not be paid the surviving spouse receives a check for the

  • SC or NSC burial allowance, and
  • plot or interment allowance (if applicable).
information is received that indicates the surviving spouse is not entitled to an automatic burial benefit The system will automatically terminate the payment.

 

Note:  If the surviving spouse believes the payment was erroneously terminated, he/she must submit a VA Form 21P-530 for burial benefits.

Note:  If a plot or interment allowance claim is received from a State cemetery after the automatic plot or interment allowance has been paid, the surviving spouse was not the proper claimant.  The pension management center (PMC) of jurisdiction should follow the regular due process procedures to terminate the erroneous payment and recoup monies paid from the surviving spouse.  Issue the plot or interment allowance to the State.  Do not wait until the payment is recouped to issue the payment to the State.
 
References:  For information on

6.  End Product Control


Introduction

This topic contains information regarding end product (EP) assignment for

Change Date

December 11, 2017

VII.1.A.6.a.  EP Assignment for Automated Burials

Automated burial and  plot or interment allowances is processed under  EP 169.  Because this is an automated process, credit for this EP is given to the station of origination.
Notes:
  • Under no circumstances should an EP 169 ever be established.  This EP is reserved only for automated burial benefits.
  • PMCs process burial appeals.

VII.1.A.6.b.  EP Assignment for Burials Not Eligible for Automatic Payments

Non-automated burial payments are processed under the EP 160 series.  Typically, credit for this EP is given to the PMC of jurisdiction.
Notes:
  • EP 160 should be established using the appropriate claim label.
  • EP 162 is to be solely used for radiation claims.  These claims are to be worked at the Jackson Regional Office (RO) only.
  •  EPs 163, 164 and 165 are for accrued claims.
  • Only one EP credit is allowed per burial application, even if there are two signatures on the application.
  • If an RO completes an EP 160, such as consolidated State plot allowance, credit is given to the RO processing the EP.
Reference:  For more information on EP codes and work-rate standards for quantitative measurement, see M21-4, Appendix B.
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