Things to Do… Before a Veteran Dies

flagsSad as it may be, one day your beloved family member will pass away. We hope it will not be for a long time, but we know that one day we all must face this great loss. This handout gives a brief overview of information for veterans’ families.
If you have questions about veteran’s death benefits, call: The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs’ toll-free number (800) 827-1000. 
In some cases, the date of application determines when benefits may be received, so it is important to submit applications on time.

Important Documents

Families should have access to these papers and documents:

  • Family insurance policies
  • Birth certificates of the spouse and children
  • The veteran’s service discharge paper (DD-214)
  • The veteran’s Social Security number
  • VA document(s) showing the veteran’s VA claim number. Since 1974, a VA number is assigned to every veteran as soon as he/she files for any VA benefit.
A copy of the family will (not required for VA benefits)
  • A copy of all marriage certificates and divorce decrees
  • Location of any safety deposit box (not required by VA)

Burial Benefits

National Cemeteries: Any veteran discharged under conditions other than Dishonorable is entitled to burial in any National Cemetery, provided space is available. Burial in a National Cemetery may be arranged by contacting the superintendent of the cemetery. Family members eligible for burial in a VA cemetery include the spouse or minor child of an eligible veteran or service member. There is no charge for burial, but the government does not pay the cost of transportation for the family members who will attend the funeral.

Burial Flags: VA provides an American flag to drape the casket of a veteran and to a person entitled to retired military pay. After the funeral service, the flag is usually given to the next of kin. Flags are issued at VA Regional Offices, National Cemeteries, and most Post Offices.

Headstones and Markers: The VA will provide a government headstone or marker for a veterans’ grave. The VA will inscribe free of charge the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death, the highest rank held, and the branch of service. The VA will ship the headstone or marker anywhere in the world. There cannot be any headstone or marker already on the grave. Setting it in place is the responsibility of the family. When burial is in a National Cemetery, the grave marker is provided and set in place by the government.

Reimbursement of Burial Expenses: If the veteran’s death was service connected, the VA currently will pay limited fees for burial expenses and for transportation of the veteran’s body to the nearest National Cemetery.

Social Security

The Social Security Administration provides a burial benefit in some cases. A lump sum death payment can be made only if an eligible husband or wife survives, or if there is a child entitled to benefits. When a veteran dies, the spouse and family may be entitled to survivor’s benefits. After a veteran’s death, contact the nearest Social Security Office to apply for benefits. The requirements for eligibility for Social Security benefits and for VA benefits are different, and separate applications must be filed for each.


If the veteran has any GI Insurance policies, forms should be obtained through a service organization or from any VA office to apply for the policy’s proceeds.

Benefits for Survivors of Veterans

Benefit eligibility for survivors of Veterans is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, family members who usually are eligible for benefits include spouses, children, and in some cases, parents. A surviving spouse remains eligible for most monetary survivor benefits as long as they remain unmarried, or remarry after the age of 57. Children may be eligible for monetary benefits until age 18, or 23 if they are attending an approved school. Disabled surviving children may also be eligible for long-term benefits.

For more information: call 800-827-1000 or go to

Education. Compelling workshops presented in unusual and engaging ways on intriguing topics: Soul Injury, Soul Restoration, Aging, Personal Healing, Veteran issues, Self-Care, Chronic Illness, End-of-Life care, Spiritual Growth, PTSD, Forgiveness, Good Grief.

Low-cost Retreats. 1, 2, or 3-day retreats in your city or ours (Tampa). Topics include: Soul Injury, Soul Restoration, Personal Growth and Healing, Forgiveness, Aging.

Soul Restoration Ceremonial Workshops. Caregiving, whether personal or professional, takes a toll! Understandably, we often disconnect from the pain. Disconnecting from the part of self carrying the pain contributes to loss of energy, emptiness, and compassion fatigue. This 4-8 hour ceremonial workshop will provide a restorative experience for your staff or your patients’ families.

Soul Injury Ceremonial Workshops. We will help your community organize, plan, and implement a ceremony for combat veterans which helps them lay down any burdens of unmourned grief or unforgiven guilt they may still be carrying. The gaping hole in our society from the aftermath of war can be healed!

Book Circles for Personal Growth.Utilizing the book, The Hero Within: Redeeming the Destiny We Were Born to Fulfill, we will help you grow small communities of people who want to cultivate pervasive personal peace.

Book Circles for Veterans. Utilizing the book, Peace at Last: Stories of Hope and Healing for Veterans and Their Families, you can become an agent of healing for our nation’s heroes by hosting a book circle for veterans and their families.

Free web-based Materials, Tools, Resources, and Blogs.

We offer these services with our Opus Peace prayer: Cultivate in me, oh God, the willingness to re-own and re-home scattered pieces of myself so that I might be restored to Your wholeness. Grow in me the honesty, humility, and courage to release my fears of who I am and who I am not. Fuel me with your Grace. Amen