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M21-1, Part VII, Chapter 1, Section B – Burial Benefits

Overview

In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic
Topic Name
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

 1.  General Veteran Eligibility Criteria


Introduction


Change Date

March 4, 2019

VII.1.B.1.a.  Veterans for Burial Benefits Purposes

A Veteran for the purpose of burial benefits is an individual who
  • served in the active military, naval, or air service, and
  • was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.
References:  For more information on the definition of a Veteran for the purpose of burial benefits, see

VII.1.B.1.b.  Verifying a Veteran’s Service for Burial Benefits

A Veteran must have had one qualifying period of other than dishonorable service for burial benefits to be payable.
To verify qualifying service for entitlement to burial benefits, use the evidence on which the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) relied to pay benefits during the Veteran’s lifetime, unless there is evidence that creates doubt as to its validity.
If the Veteran was never in receipt of VA benefits and acceptable documentation verifying service is not of record
  • request verification from the Veteran’s service department (Personnel Information Exchange System (PIES)), and/or
  • ask the claimant to submit an original or certified copy of
    • DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or
    • Certificate of Discharge
  • review service information within Veteran Information Solution (VIS), or
  • submit a Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System (DPRIS) request.
Exception:  If the Veteran’s body is unclaimed, the National Cemetery Scheduling Office will verify service and determine eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery.
Note:  Concede service as verified for burial purposes if there is evidence that the Veteran is buried in a national cemetery when there is no service verified, and annotate the award that service is conceded because the Veteran is buried in a national cemetery.
Reference:  For more information on verifying service, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 6.B.2.

VII.1.B.1.c.  Service Members Who Died During Military Service

VA burial benefits are not payable for a service member who died while serving on active military duty.  The military service department covers the cost of the burial or plot or interment allowance, not VA.

VII.1.B.1.d.Service Certified as Active Military Service Under PL 95-202

Under Section 401 of Public Law (PL) 95-202, enacted November 23, 1977, service which had not been recognized as active military service was certified as such for certain groups of individuals.

Burial benefits can be paid for a Veteran who died before the Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes the Veteran’s service as active military service under the public law.  However, payment may not exceed the rate in effect at the time of burial.
Notes:
  • The public law generally applies to Veterans who served as civilians during World War II.  However, there is no ending date to the public law.  DoD still has authority to recognize service as active military service under the public law.
  • If a Veteran, whose service was recognized under PL 95-202 (See 38 CFR 3.7(x)) died before the date of recognition, payment may not exceed the statutory rate in effect at the time of the burial.
References:  For more information on

VII.1.B.1.e.  Service Department Certification of Active Federal Service

If the military service department certifies that there has been active Federal service, accept this as a basis for adjudicating benefits if the individual was, in fact, mustered into Federal service, unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Reference:  For identification of certain individuals who had active Federal service that may not be recognized by the service department, see 38 CFR 3.7(t).


VII.1.B.1.f.  Eligible Veterans’ Loyalty Clearance

If a loyalty clearance is required for making a burial benefit decision, see, M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 1.C.10.

In the absence of a decision concerning his/her loyalty or forfeiture of benefits, the Veteran’s loyalty clearance will not be required.
Reference:  For more information on an eligible Veteran’s loyalty clearance, see

VII.1.B.1.g.  Suicide as the Cause of Death

Death by suicide does not preclude the payment of burial benefits.  However, the SC burial allowance may be granted only if the suicide can be linked to a disability that is subject to service connection.
Exception:  If a death certificate is received with suicide listed as the cause of death, and the Veteran’s SC disabilities are rated 100 percent disabling (excluding individual unemployability (IU)), a rating decision is not required.
References:  For more information on

 2.  SC Burial Allowance


Introduction

This topic contains information on the SC death burial allowance, including


Change Date

March 17, 2017

VII.1.B.2.a.  General Eligibility for the SC Burial Allowance

A service-connected (SC) burial allowance is payable for Veterans

  • who died as a result of SC disability or disabilities (including 38 U.S.C. 1151)
  • who were rated totally disabled (100 percent) for an SC disability or disabilities at time of death (excluding IU), or
  • when Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is granted (including DIC granted under 38 U.S.C. 1318 or 38 U.S.C. 1151).
Exception:  The SC burial allowance is not payable if the Veteran’s remains are unclaimed.  Do not send the claim to the rating activity.
References:  For more information on

VII.1.B.2.b.  Payment Amount for the SC Burial Allowance

Unless VA has evidence on the date of receipt of the notice of the Veteran’s death that the burial expenses incurred were less, VBA will pay the maximum SC burial allowance.

Notes:
  • When paying the SC burial and transportation reimbursement, VA cannot pay more than the maximum SC burial allowance, unless the Veteran is buried in a national cemetery.
  • If the Veteran is entitled to both the SC burial allowance and the VA hospitalization death burial allowance, pay the SC burial allowance as the greater benefit.
  • If a Veteran is eligible for the VA hospitalization death burial allowance, regardless of whether VA is paying the SC burial allowance as the greater benefit, the Veteran is entitled to transportation benefits as subject to the limitations set forth in 38 CFR 3.1709 (d).  The requirement for burial in a national cemetery is not a factor when paying transportation benefits for VA hospitalization deaths.
Reference:  For the maximum SC burial allowance, see the burial benefits rate chart.

VII.1.B.2.c.  When to Send a Claim for SC Death for Rating Decision

Unless there is evidence to the contrary on the date VA receives notice of the Veteran’s death, presume for the purposes of burial benefits only, that a Veteran died from SC disability or disabilities if the Veteran had a SC disability or disabilities rated 100 percent at the time of his or her death (excluding IU).
Important:  This applies only to eligibility for the SC burial allowance.
If the Veteran’s disability or disabilities are …
Then …
rated 100 percent SC at time of death (excluding IU)
  • grant SC burial allowance, and
  • do not send the claim to the rating activity.
Note:  Do not send a claim to the rating activity for a Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) rating or presumptive service-connection review if administratively granting SC burial.
  • not rated 100 percent SC at time of death, and
  • there is a claim for SC death
send the claim to the rating activity.
rated IU at time of death
send the claim to the rating activity.
  • were granted for any chronic disease under38 CFR 3.309, and
  • there is a claim for SC death
send the claim to the rating activity.
  • SC for a condition affecting any vital organ, and
  • there is a claim for SC death
send the claim to the rating activity.
  • at least one SC disability evaluated at 50 percent or more disabling, and
  • there is a claim for SC death
send the claim to the rating activity.
Note:  Regardless of whether SC death is claimed, when a reasonable probability of SC death exists, the claim should be sent to the rating activity for review.
Exception:  SC burial allowance is not payable if the Veteran’s remains are unclaimed.
References:  For more information on

VII.1.B.2.d.  Treatment of the IU for SC Death Burial Allowance

Do not presume that a Veteran’s death resulted from SC disability or disabilities if the Veteran was receiving compensation at the 100-percent rate due to IU.  A rating decision is required to determine SC death entitlement in this case.
Exception:  The SC death burial allowance is payable when DIC entitlement is established under 38 U.S.C. 1318.  This is true even though DIC under 38 U.S.C. 1318 may be established when the Veteran was receiving compensation at the 100-percent rate due to IU.

VII.1.B.2.e.  Burial Benefits Payable in Addition to the SC Burial Allowance 

In addition to the SC burial allowance, VBA may
  • pay a plot or interment allowance directly to the State or political subdivision of a State for burial in a State Veterans cemetery or other cemetery listed in 38 CFR 3.1707, or
  • reimburse for transportation cost incurred related to a burial in a national cemetery.
Note:  If the Veteran’s death is SC, VA does not pay an additional plot or interment allowance to any individual or estate.  Plot or interment allowance is payable to the State or political subdivision of a State under 38 U.S.C. 2303(b)(1).
Reference:  For more information on transportation reimbursement for burial in a national cemetery, see

VII.1.B.2.f.  Burial Claim Received After the SC Burial Allowance Is Paid

When a claim for SC burial allowance is received after the SC burial allowance has been paid to the proper claimant, deny the new claim for the SC burial allowance, unless transportation reimbursement is payable.
Note:  Per 38 CFR 3.103(b)(3)(iii), if  evidence reasonably indicates that a beneficiary is deceased, due process is not required.
Reference:  For more information on due process procedures, see M21-1, Part I, 2.A.

VII.1.B.2.g.  Example: Burial Claim Received After the SC Burial  Allowance Is Paid

Situation:  A surviving spouse is automatically paid $2000 for the SC burial allowance.  The Veteran is not buried in a national cemetery.  Later, the Veteran’s daughter applies for the SC burial allowance.
Result:  Deny the Veteran’s daughter’s claim because the automatic SC burial benefit was paid to the surviving spouse.
Rationale:  38 CFR 3.1702(a) states the surviving spouse is the correct claimant.  No additional burial benefits are payable.

VII.1.B.2.h.  SC Burial Allowance Claim Received After the NSC Burial Allowance Is Paid

When the NSC burial allowance has been paid, and it is later determined that the SC burial allowance is payable, VA may pay an eligible claimant the difference between the amount of the SC burial allowance and the total amount previously paid.

Note:  When determining the total amount previously paid, consider all burial benefit payments to include plot allowance.

VII.1.B.2.i.  Example: SC Burial Allowance  Claim Received After the NSC Burial Allowance Is Paid

Situation:  A surviving spouse was automatically paid $300 for the NSC burial allowance.  The Veteran is not buried in a State or national cemetery, and no other burial benefits were paid at that time.  Later, the Veteran’s daughter applies for the $2000 SC burial allowance, and the rating activity determines  the SC burial allowance is payable.
Result:  Pay the Veteran’s daughter the remaining burial allowance of $1700 and notify her that $300 of the maximum burial allowance was already paid to the surviving spouse.
Rationale:  Under 38 CFR 3.1702(b), if a claimant qualifies as an eligible claimant and is the first to file a claim for a burial benefit, that claimant is the proper claimant for that particular burial benefit.
In this situation, 38 CFR 3.1702(a) states the surviving spouse is the proper claimant for the automatic NSC burial allowance and 38 CFR 3.1702(b) states the Veteran’s daughter is the proper claimant for the remaining SC burial allowance.
Important:  If additional burial benefits were previously paid, such as plot allowance, this must be factored into the difference between the amount of the SC burial allowance and the total amount previously paid.

VII.1.B.2.j.  Transportation Reimbursement Claim Received With or After the SC Burial Allowance Is Paid

If an eligible claimant submits a claim for transportation reimbursement with a request for SC burial allowance or after the SC burial allowance is paid, and the Veteran is buried in a national cemetery, then VA may grant transportation.
If the Veteran was not buried in a national cemetery, then deny the claim for transportation as the $2000 SC burial allowance already included the cost of transportation.  Under 38 U.S.C. 2307 and 2308, transportation is included in the $2000 SC burial allowance cap unless the Veteran is buried in a national cemetery.
Notes:
  • When considering a claim for transportation reimbursement, proof of cost incurred must be provided.
  • When dual entitlement exists for VA hospitalization death burial allowance and SC burial allowance, follow the guidance in M21-1, Part VII, 1.B.6.bfor transportation reimbursement.
Reference:  For more information on eligibility for transportation reimbursement, see M21-1, Part VII, 1.B.6.

VII.1.B.2.k.  Example: Transportation Reimbursement Claim Received With or After the SC Burial Allowance Is Paid

Situation:  The Veteran’s mother was paid $2000 for the SC burial allowance.  The Veteran was buried in a national cemetery; therefore, eligibility for transportation reimbursement exists.
Result:  Pay transportation reimbursement to the Veteran’s mother based on receipts or funeral home statements submitted.

 3.   NSC Burial Allowance


Introduction


Change Date

February 19, 2019

VII.1.B.3.a.  General Eligibility Criteria for NSC Burial Allowance

Eligibility for the NSC burial allowance exists if the Veteran
  • was receiving pension or compensation at the time of death
  • was receiving military retired pay in lieu of compensation at the time of death
  • had a claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date of death, or
  • has no family or friends who claim the Veteran’s body and there are insufficient resources to cover burial and funeral expenses.
References:  For more information on

VII.1.B.3.b.   Payment Amount for NSC Burial Allowance 

Unless VA has evidence on the date of receipt of the notice of the Veteran’s death, that the burial expenses incurred were less, VBA will pay the maximum NSC burial allowance.
References:  For more information on

VII.1.B.3.c.  NSC Burial Allowance and Transportation Expense Reimbursement

Eligibility for reimbursement of transportation expenses in addition to the NSC burial allowance may exist when the Veteran is buried in a national cemetery.
Reference:  For more information on eligibility for transportation expenses reimbursement, see M21-1, Part VII, 1.B.6.

 4.  VA Hospitalization Death Burial Allowance


Introduction


Change Date

March 17, 2017

VII.1.B.4.a.  General Eligibility Criteria for VA Hospitalization Death Burial Allowance

Eligibility for the VA hospitalization death burial allowance exists if the Veteran

  • was hospitalized by VA at the time of death
  • died while hospitalized under VA contract at a non-VA facility
  • 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
  • died while a patient at an approved State Veterans’ home.
VBA may pay the following allowances in addition to the VA hospitalization death burial allowance:
  • plot or interment allowance, and/or
  • reimbursement for transportation expenses or costs incurred.
Notes:
  • Death while hospitalized in the Philippines does not qualify for payment of the VA hospitalization death burial allowance.
  • A home or residence does not qualify as a VA facility for purposes of 38 U.S.C 1701(3)17031720, or 1741.
  • If the Veteran is entitled to both the SC burial allowance and the VA hospitalization death burial allowance, pay the SC burial allowance as the greater benefit.
  • If a Veteran is eligible for the VA hospitalization death burial allowance, regardless of whether VA is paying the SC burial allowance as the greater benefit, the Veteran is entitled to transportation benefits as subject to the limitations set forth in 38 CFR 3.1709(d).  The requirement for burial in a national cemetery is not a factor when paying transportation benefits for VA hospitalization deaths.
References: For more information on

VII.1.B.4.b.   Verification of VA Hospitalization Death 

If it is reported that a VA hospitalization death occurred, follow the table below for verification of VA hospitalization death:
If verification of VA hospitalization death …
Then…
can be completed in theCompensation and Pension Record Interchange (CAPRI)
grant up to the maxium burial allowance as specified in 38 U.S.C. 2303(a).
cannot be completed and the Veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension
grant NSC burial allowance and explain in the decision notice that verification of hospitalization could not be made.
cannot be complete in CAPRIor with evidence received from the claimant
Note:  In all cases, review 38 CFR 3.159(d) to determine if VA should continue providing assistance in obtaining evidence.
cannot be completed and the Veteran was not in receipt of compensation or pension
deny the claim and explain in the decision notice that verification of hospitalization could not be made.
Reference:  For more information on the general eligibility criteria for VA Hospitalization Death Burial Allowance, see M21-1, Part VII, 1.B.4.a.

VII.1.B.4.c.  Payment Amount for VA Hospitalization Death Burial Allowance

VBA will pay up to the maximum VA hospitalization death burial allowance per 38 U.S.C. 2303(a).
Notes:
  • If a Veteran is entitled to both VA hospitalization death burial allowance and SC burial allowance, pay the SC burial allowance as the greater benefit.
  • If a Veteran is eligible for the VA hospitalization death burial allowance, regardless of whether VA is paying the SC burial allowance as the greater benefit, the Veteran is entitled to transportation benefits as subject to the limitations set forth in 38 CFR 3.1709(d).  The requirement for burial in a national cemetery is not a factor when paying transportation benefits for VA hospitalization deaths.
  • The amount in 38 U.S.C. 2303(a) is subject to a yearly cost-of-living increase.

VII.1.B.4.d.  Veterans Absent From VA Care or Qualifying Facility at Time of Death

The VA hospitalization death burial allowance may also be payable for a Veteran who died while under VA care but who was not at a qualifying facility at the time of death.
This provision applies if the Veteran was
  • on authorized absence that did not exceed 96 hours at the time of death
  • on unauthorized absence for a period not in excess of 24 hours at the time of death, or
  • absent from the facility for a period not in excess of 24 hours of combined authorized and unauthorized absence at the time of death.
Reference:  For more information on VA hospitalization death burial allowance eligibility, see 38 CFR 3.1706.

5.  Plot or Interment Allowance


Introduction


Change Date

March 4, 2019

VII.1.B.5.a.  General Eligibility for Plot or Interment Allowance

For a Veteran who was eligible for burial in a national cemetery under 38 U.S.C. 2402, VBA may pay the plot or interment allowance.
Note:  The plot or interment allowance is not payable to an individual claimant if the Veteran is buried or interred in a State or national Veterans cemetery or other cemetery as listed in 38 CFR 3.1707.

VII.1.B.5.b.  Amount Payable for Plot or Interment Allowance

Unless VA has evidence on the date of the notice of the Veteran’s death that the expenses incurred were less, VBA will pay the maximum plot or interment allowance.
Notes:
  • Always pay the maximum allowance payable to a State, government agency, or political subdivision when the burial is provided without charge in a State Veterans cemetery or other cemetery listed in 38 CFR 3.1707.
  • Part IV on VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Benefits must be completed in order to pay plot or interment allowance.
Reference:  For more information on the amounts payable in claims for burial in

VII.1.B.5.c.  Plot or Interment Allowance for Burial in a State Veterans Cemetery

VBA will pay the plot or interment allowance to a State, or government agency or political subdivision of a State, that provided a burial plot or interment for the Veteran if the State or government agency or political subdivision of the State
  • is claiming the plot or interment allowance for burial of the Veteran in a cemetery, or section of a cemetery, owned by the State or government agency or subdivision of the State
  • did not charge for the expense of the plot or interment, and
  • uses the cemetery or section of the cemetery solely for the interment of
    • persons eligible for burial in a national cemetery
    • members of the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard, and
    • members or former members of a reserve component of the Armed Forces not otherwise eligible for interment in a national cemetery, as per 38 U.S.C. 2402or
  • is claiming the plot or interment allowance for burial of the unclaimed Veteran remains in a cemetery, or section of a cemetery, owned by the State or government agency or subdivision of the State.
Notes:
  • The provision pertaining to reserve members and former members applies to deaths on or after November 1, 2000.
  • Always pay the maximum allowance payable to a State, government agency, or political subdivision when the burial is provided without charge in a State Veterans cemetery, or other cemetery as listed in 38 CFR 3.1707.
Reference:  For more information on plot or interment allowance eligibility, see

VII.1.B.5.d.  Plot or Interment Allowance for Burial in Other Than a State or National Veterans Cemetery

VBA may pay the plot or interment allowance to an eligible claimant who incurred plot or interment expenses relating to the purchase of a burial plot for a deceased Veteran when the Veteran is buried in a cemetery other than a State or national Veterans cemetery or other cemetery as listed in 38 CFR 3.1707(b)(1) and (b)(3), if the
  • NSC burial allowance is payable
  • VA hospitalization death burial allowance is payable
  • Veteran was discharged from active service for a disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, or
  • Veteran, at the time of discharge from active service, had a disability, shown by official service records, which in medical judgment would have justified a discharge for disability
Notes:
  • VA does not pay separate plot allowance when paying SC burial allowance.  Plot can only be paid in addition to SC burial allowance when paying a State (or other political subdivision of a State).
  • For the amount payable for plot or interment allowance for burial in other than a State or national Veterans cemetery, see M21-1, Part VII, 1.B.5.b.
Reference:  For more information on Veterans discharged from active service for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, see 38 CFR 3.1707(c)(3).

VII.1.B.5.e.  Contributions by Government, Public, or Private Organizations

If there is evidence at the time of notification of the Veterans death that the U.S., a State, or any agency or political subdivision of the U.S. or of a State, or the Veteran’s employer has paid all or part of the Veteran’s plot or interment expenses, pay the claimant the lesser of the
  • maximum statutory plot or interment allowance if the expenses exceeded the maximum statutory plot or interment allowance, or
  • amount of the total plot or interment expenses minus the amount of expenses paid by the government, public, or private organization or organizations.
Examples:
  • The Veteran’s plot expenses cost $700.  At the time of notification of the Veterans death, evidence shows another agency paid $500 for the Veteran’s plot allowance.  If the current statutory plot allowance is $722, pay the claimant a plot allowance of $222, which is the lesser of the amount paid and the current statutory plot allowance.
  • The Veteran’s plot expenses cost $800.  At the time of notification of the Veterans death, evidence shows another agency paid $800 for the Veteran’s plot.  Deny the claim for plot allowance as the expenses paid by the other agency exceed the current statutory plot allowance of $722.

VII.1.B.5.f.  Eligible Claimant’s Loyalty Clearance When Buried in a State Veterans Cemetery

Loyalty clearance will be necessary only when a Veteran is buried in a State Veterans cemetery or other cemetery as listed in 38 CFR 3.1707, and Veteran forfeiture may be declared under 38 CFR 3.902(d).
Do not delay awarding burial benefits pending receipt of formal loyalty clearance, in connection with claims for accrued benefits payable, on the basis of relationship.
References:  For more information on

VII.1.B.5.g.  How to ProcessClaims for the Consolidated State Plot or Interment Allowance for Burial in a State Veterans Cemetary

Effective March 1, 2019, Veterans Service Centers no longer process claims for consolidated State plot or interment allowance.  Pension management centers (PMC) now have jurisdiction for processing these claims.
The table below describes how to process claims for the consolidated State plot or interment allowance benefit.
Stage
Who is Responsible
Description
1
State cemetery
Submits a monthly consolidated request to the PMC of jurisdiction via Centralized Mail (CM) for the plot or interment allowance for Veterans buried in their State Veterans cemeteries (or other cemetery as listed in 38 CFR 3.1707) on VA Form 21P-530aState Application for Interment Allowance under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 23.
2
PMC Intake Processing Center (IPC)
  • Reviews the VA Form 21P-530a, and establishes an end product (EP) 160, State Plot Allowance or EP 160, PMC State Plot Allowance, and
  • If required, completes a FIRST NOTICE OF DEATH command in Share at the time of claims establishment and ensures the Veterans date of death is entered in the BIRLS VID screen.
Notes:
  • If a claim for State Plot Allowance is already pending for a Veteran and a duplicate claim is received from the same cemetery, do not establish a new claim.  The second claim (duplicate claim) is considered match mail.
  • This claim only requires the State Plot contention entered.
3
PMC IPC
Makes individual copies of the VA Form 21P-530a and uploads a redacted copy of the form to the electronic claims folder (eFolder) for each Veteran listed on the form.
Note:  The PMC should retain the original unredacted VA Form 21P-530a in an electronic file for six months.
Important:  The PMC must redact all personally identifiable information (PII) for all other Veterans, except the Veteran whose claims folder or eFolder will contain the copied VA Form 21P-530a.  A form that is not redacted will contain PII; and therefore, will be a PII violation.
Reference:  For more information on files and folder control, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 4.A.
4
PMC Veterans Service Representative (VSR)
  • Reviews each pending claim for complete required service information, prior award history, and correct claims establishment.
  • Completes any required development including requests for service verification.
Reference:  For more information on verifiying a Veterans service for burial benefits, see M21-1, Part VII, 1.B.1.b.
5
PMC VSR
Processes a State plot award decision in Veterans Benefits Management System-Awards (VBMS-A).
6
Finance and Accounting Service (FAS)
  • Batches awards weekly.  This includes both automated and manual awards.
  • Sends a report to the State cemetery of the payments made.
Important:  If the plot or interment allowance was previously paid to the surviving spouse or another beneficiary, and there is no evidence of record confirming payment, the PMC should send a due process notification to the surviving spouse or other beneficiary requesting evidence showing the plot or internment was paid.  If no evidence is received during the due process period, the PMC must terminate the prior plot or interment allowance payment.  Following termination of the prior plot award, the PMC should pay the State Veterans cemetery the plot or interment allowance.
The PMC should follow the regular due process procedures as listed in M21-1, Part I, 2.AD, and recoup monies paid to the surviving spouse or other claimant.

VII.1.B.5.hAutomated Consolidated State Plot Batch Process

The automated consolidated State plot or interment batch process
  • runs weekly
  • reviews the corporate data for pending State plot claims
  • reviews for the following eligibility requirements
    • proper claims establishment
    • a date of death in Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS)
    • complete service periods, including character of discharge
    • verified service
    • other than dishonorable service, and
    • no pending or prior plot allowance award.
  • creates an award and closes the pending EP if all eligibility requirements are met, and
  • issues an individual award letter to the State cemetery claimant and uploads a copy of the award letter in the Veteran’s eFolder.
Note:  If automation does not occur, the EP is set to Ready to Work and remains pending for review and processing by the PMC VSR.

 6.  Transportation Reimbursement


Introduction


Change Date

March 17, 2017

VII.1.B.6.a.  Transportation Reimbursement for Burial in a National Cemetery

VBA will reimburse the costs incurred to transport a Veteran’s remains for burial in a national cemetery if the Veteran
  • died as the result of an SC disability
  • was receiving SC disability compensation on the date of death
  • would have been receiving SC disability compensation on the date of death but for the receipt of military retired pay or VA pension
  • is later determined by VA to have been entitled to SC disability compensation  from a date before the Veteran’s death, or
  • remains are unclaimed.
Note:  VA will reimburse costs incurred to transport a Veteran’s remains to the nearest national cemetery (with available space) from the Veteran’s last place of residence.
Reference:  For more information on eligibility for reimbursement of transportation costs incurred when a Veteran is buried in a national cemetery, see 38 CFR 3.1709.

VII.1.B.6.b.  Transportation Reimbursement for VA Hospitalization Death 

VBA will reimburse the costs incurred to transport a Veteran’s remains if the Veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or other facility as listed in 38 CFR 3.1706.
VBA will reimburse the costs incurred to transport a Veteran’s remains from the place of death to the place of burial if the death occurs within a State, and
  • the place of burial is in the same State or any other State, or
  • the place of burial is in Canada or Mexico.
Notes:
  • If the Veteran died while receiving properly authorized VA care, and the body is shipped to the place of burial by rail, it is not necessary that the body be shipped on a Government bill of lading.
  • If a Veteran is eligible for the VA hospitalization death burial allowance, the Veteran is entitled to transportation benefits as subject to the limitations set forth in 38 CFR 3.1709(d).  The requirement for burial in a national cemetery is not a factor when paying transportation benefits for VA hospitalization deaths.
Exception:  If the burial is in Canada or Mexico, VBA only authorizes reimbursement for transportation from the place of death within a State to the port of embarkation within a State, or to the border limits of the U.S.
References:  For more information on

VII.1.B.6.c.  Required Evidence for Transportation Reimbursement Claim

The claimant must submit an itemized receipt or statement, preferably on letterhead that includes 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 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 claimed 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.
 Reference:  For more information on telephone development, see

VII.1.B.6.d.  Allowable Transportation Expenses

When transportation reimbursement is allowable, VBA may pay for expenses relating to transportation of the Veterans remains to his or her final resting place.  Transportation expenses include, but are not limited to
  • charges for the pickup of remains (round-trip or flat-charge basis)
  • charges for escort accompanying remains if the Veteran dies while properly receiving VA care
  • charges for air transportation when deemed necessary or advantageous on the basis of urgency and funeral arrangement details and on a cost basis. (If air shipment is authorized, limit the amount paid to the usual air freight charges)
  • shipment via common carrier, and
  • general costs of transporting the remains to the place of burial.
Notes:
  • VBA only pays the one-way fare for an escort for transportation expenses.
  • Transportation charges must not exceed the charges customarily made to the general public.
  • Itemized charges for transportation by hearse should not routinely be questioned.  However, if the evidence shows that transport by hearse appears to be  over a long distance and the services of a common carrier were readily available, limit the amount of payment for such transportation to the common carrier rates (including hearse charges to and from the common carrier terminals). Limit the payment to the common carrier ratesonly if it is apparent that a common carrier should have been used and would not have imposed any hardship on the family or caused undue delay of the funeral or burial.
  • In determining the amount of reimbursement payable for transportation costs incurred, include Federal taxes charged by a common carrier.

VII.1.B.6.eDetermining the Amount of Payable Transportation Expenses for Claims Under 38 CFR 3.1709

Follow the steps in the table below to determine the amount of transportation costs payable when processing an award for claims under 38 CFR 3.1709.
Step
Action
1
Was the Veteran buried in a national cemetery nearest his/her last place of residence?
  • If yes, pay the total expenses of all transportation charges.
  • If no,
    • do not pay more than the amount that would have been payable for burial in the nearest national cemetery, and.
    • go to Step 2.
Note:  It is generally not necessary to develop, ascertain, or verify the last place of residence, unless the claimant affirmatively shows it to be elsewhere.
Reference:  For more information on documenting information received by telephone, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 1.B.1.d.
2
Determine the expenses that would have been incurred to transport the deceased Veteran to the nearest national cemetery with available space.
Notes:
  • The claimant must establish the actual cost of transportation to the place of burial.  If the adjudicator cannot determine what the costs would have been to transport the Veteran to the nearest national cemetery, then development to the claimant is required.  Develop to establish the costs which would have been incurred to transport the Veteran to the closest national cemetery with space available.
  • Telephone development is encouraged, when appropriate and must be documented on a VA Form 27-0820, Report of General Information.
  •  If development is required and the claimant does not respond, deny the claim for transportation reimbursement.
References:  For more information on
3
Pay the lesser of the two amounts and provide a full explanation to the claimant if the payment authorized is less than the amount initially claimed.
Reference:  For more information on the nearest national cemetery, see M21-1, Part VII, 1.A.1.i.

 7.  Burial of Veterans Unclaimed Remains


Introduction


Change Date

January 2, 2019

VII.1.B.7.a.  General Eligibility for Unclaimed Remains

NSC burial allowance is payable for a Veteran if
  • the remains of the deceased Veteran are unclaimed, and
  • there are insufficient resources available in the Veteran’s estate to cover the burial and funeral expenses.
Effective July 7, 2014, for unclaimed remains, VBA no longer requires
  • wartime service or discharge due to disability requirements, or
  • the Veteran to have been in receipt of compensation or pension at the time of death, or
  • the State, or political subdivision of the State, to authorize the deceased Veteran’s funeral service.
Notes:
  • Next-of-kin listed on a death certificate does not necessarily mean that a Veteran’s remains are claimed.  If a VA Form 21P-530 is received from a funeral home or other third party, the signature on the application indicates they have legally sworn that they incurred expenses.  However, if the Benefits Requested box is not checked for unclaimed remains and there is no indication of evidence of an unclaimed remains claim, deny the claim and notify the funeral home in the decision letter what evidence we need.
  • If the funeral home is the proper claimant on the application, VA can accept a stamped signature on the application.  There is no requirement for a wet signature.
Reference:  For more information on  unclaimed Veteran remains, see

VII.1.B.7.b.  Payment Amount for Unclaimed Remains

Unless VA has evidence on the date of receipt of the notice of the Veteran’s death that the burial expenses incurred were less, VBA will pay the maximum NSC burial allowance for the unclaimed remains of a Veteran.
Note:  The SC burial allowance is not payable for the unclaimed remains of a Veteran.

VII.1.B.7.c.  Unclaimed Remains of a Veteran who Died at a VA Hospital

If a Veteran dies in a VA hospital or while under VA care and the remains are unclaimed, VHA is responsible for the burial.  VBA does not pay burial benefits in this situation.
The VAMC of jurisdiction is responsible for forwarding the following documents to the regional office (RO) for filing in the deceased Veteran’s claims folder:
Reference:  For more information on VHA burials, see section 213 of PL 114-223.

VII.1.B.7.d.  Third Party NSC Burial Allowance for Unclaimed Remains

If a funeral home or third party who handled the arrangements for a Veteran whose remains are unclaimed files a claim for NSC burial allowance based on unclaimed remains, pay
  • the NSC burial allowance based on unclaimed remains, and
  • reimbursement for transportation expenses if the Veteran is buried in a national cemetery.
Do not pay a plot or interment allowance to a funeral home or third party if the Veteran is buried in a State Veterans cemetery or other cemetery as listed in 38 CFR 3.1707; the plot or interment allowance is payable to the State or agency or political subdivision of a State.
References:  For more information on

VII.1.B.7.e.  Denial of Funeral Home or Third-Party Claimants

For all burial claims received on or after July 7, 2014, from funeral home directors or other third parties not listed in 38 CFR 3.1702(b), VA can no longer pay a burial allowance unless the funeral home or other third party provided services for the unclaimed remains of a Veteran.
If the evidence shows that the Veterans remains are not unclaimed, then deny the funeral home or other third-party claimant using the following language:
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 a claim 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.

VII.1.B.7.f.  Processing Requests for Verification of Veteran Status of Identified Remains

When processing requests to verify the Veteran status of identified remains
  • follow procedures established locally, and
  • consult the RO Indigent Veterans and Unclaimed Remains Coordinator, if necessary.

VII.1.B.7.g.  Making Funeral and Burial Arrangements 

Do not make funeral or burial arrangements before establishing positive verification of Veteran status for the unclaimed remains.
The table below describes the steps taken after positive verification of Veterans status is established.
Step
Action
1
The claims processor sends a request to the Veterans Service Center Manager or Pension Management Center Manager of the claims file jurisdiction for a determination of basic entitlement to the burial allowance.
Reference:  For more information on entitlement to burial benefits for unclaimed Veterans, see 38 CFR 3.1708.
2
The claims processor attempts to locate the next-of-kin (or a responsible close friend, if no next-of-kin can be found) who will be
  • encouraged to assume burial responsibilities, and
  • counseled concerning any burial benefits known to be available in the individual case.
3
Has anyone accepted responsibility for the unclaimed remains?
  • If yes, the remains are considered to be “claimed.”
  • If no, the RO Director in the area in which the Veteran died should
    • initiate negotiations for a dignified burial with an appropriate funeral director in accordance with local procedures, and
    • consult the RO Indigent Veterans and Unclaimed Remains Coordinator for assistance, if necessary.

VII.1.B.7.h.  Following Disposition of Remains

Following final disposition of the remains, prepare a VA Form 27-0820, identifying all circumstances of the case in which responsibility was assumed by
  • an interested person or next-of-kin, for claimed remains, or
  • a cooperating funeral director, for unclaimed remains.
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