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Military Burials and Memorial Benefits

It's been a longstanding tradition of the United States military to honor its dead. Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Vietnam Memorial, and the Memorial Day holiday are all hallmarks of this honor. There are a number of burial tributes and benefits that can be comforting to you, your mom or dad, and your family.

Burial at a Military Cemetery

The VA has a National Cemetery Administration that maintains 118 national cemeteries in 39 states. The VA determines eligibility to be buried at a national cemetery. To determine eligibility, call 1-800-827-1000. There are also state-run veterans' cemeteries. These have similar eligibility criteria as the national cemeteries, but usually require residency in the state. You can get contact information for your state and an overview of the steps you need to take for burial in a national cemetery by going to the VA Web site (www.va.gov). Upon request, you can also receive a military head marker.

Burial Expenses

The VA usually pays a funeral allowance of $300 for funeral expenses and may also pay transportation costs for the remains. A claim must be filed within two years of the death. When death occurs at a VA facility, nursing home, or nursing home under contract with the VA, the burial expense benefit is usually available.

Military Funeral Honors

The Department of Defense, as of January 1, 2000, is responsible for an “Honoring Those Who Served” program that provides military funeral honors to veterans. Families must request this service; your funeral director should ask you if you want it and make the contact for you. A military funeral ceremony consists of two or more uniformed military persons coming to the gravesite to play “Taps” and present the family with the United States burial flag. While I was writing this book, my stepfather, a World War II veteran who received the Purple Heart, died. I can't tell you how much it meant to my mother and his children to have a military funeral for him. It was a solemn and cherished moment for all of us when my mother was presented with the U.S. flag to honor the service of Samuel J. Baressi.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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