A VA cemetery, or Veterans Affairs cemetery, is a cemetery overseen by the US Veterans Affairs Administration for the benefit of eligible individuals and their spouses, dependents and parents. Nationally, there are 136 VA cemeteries but not all states have an VA Cemetery For a specific list of the over VA cemetery locations visit https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp. State veteran cemeteries are not run by the federal Veterans Affairs administration and have separate rules and regulations concerning eligibility and costs.

Through their honorable service to the United States eligible individuals may have the right and ability to be buried in a VA cemetery (or Veterans Affairs Cemetery). Eligibility must be officially verified and approved by the National Cemetery Administration.

Generally, eligibility extends to:

  • Veterans and Members of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard)
  • Members of Reserve Components and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps
  • Commissioned Officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Commissioned Officers of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service
  • World War II Merchant Mariners
  • The Philippine Armed Forces
  • Spouses and Dependents and Parents* based on specific conditions

Purpose & Characteristics of a VA Cemetery

Within a VA cemetery individual plots or burial sites are assigned at the time of need and cannot be chosen in advance. The assignment of burial location is made without consideration given to the individual’s branch of service, rank, or religion. The exception to this rule is that spouses will be interred within the same burial space, unless both individuals were Veterans. If both individuals were veterans, they have the option to be buried in adjacent burial plots. Cremated remains may be buried within designated areas of the cemetery or they may be entombed in above-ground columbaria.

The standard memorialization within VA Cemeteries is upright granite headstones. Select VA Cemeteries allow for flat, lawn-level, bronze memorials as well. The size, style, inscription, and emblems allowed on government memorials are strictly controlled and regulated. To view the list of requirements and restrictions see the memorial application form (https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/va40-1330.pdf).

Chapels, visitation, and viewing facilities are not generally available at VA Cemeteries. Graveside funeral services may not be performed at VA Cemeteries. Committal services are allowed within specifically designated committal shelters. However, committal shelters are not located at the gravesite. Burial will take place following the committal service.

VA Cemetery and Burial Costs

VA burial benefits available through any of the 136 national veterans affairs cemeteries may include the burial plot, the cemetery labor charges, all perpetual care and maintenance, a government memorial headstone or bronze memorial, a US burial flag, and the Presidential Memorial Certificate, all made available at no cost to the next-of kin.

The services of a funeral home are still required and are not typically part of the VA network. The VA will provide additional burial benefits to offset a portion of the funeral home charges. The schedule of additional burial benefits depends on the date of death and the circumstance of death. To see the full listing of VA burial benefits refer to the most recent update made October 2018 (https://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/burials/Burial.pdf).

Additional Information about VA Cemeteries

The importance of pre-need planning has been recognized by the VA. In an attempt to verify burial eligibility, on a pre-need basis, the VA has created a specific form to be used (https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-10007.pdf). The VA has promoted pre-need determination so that families are able to plan in advance in order to reduce stress and eliminate delays after a death has occurred.

The positive response to the VA pre-planning program has been overwhelming and the VA must make eligibility determines for current deaths before it can do so for pre-need planning. Contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-800-535-1117 for the current status of outstanding pre-need eligibility applications.

Once eligibility has been determined, pre-need plans must also be made with a funeral service provider.