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Are you eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery?

The Department of Veterans Affairs implemented the pre-need burial eligibility determination program to assist anyone who would like to know if they are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery.

The VA is promoting pre-need eligibility determinations to encourage veterans and their eligible family members to plan in advance to use VA burial benefits veterans have earned through their military service. Planning in advance for a veteran’s or loved one’s final resting place can eliminate unnecessary delays and reduce stress on a family at a difficult time. Veteran families will have increased confidence that their loved ones are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery at their time of need.

Upon request, the VA will make eligibility determinations for burial in a VA national cemetery in advance of need. Eligible people are entitled to burial in any open VA national cemetery that includes opening/closing of the grave, a government-furnished grave liner, perpetual care of the gravesite and a government-furnished upright headstone or flat marker or niche cover, all at no cost to the family. Veterans are also eligible for a burial flag and Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Burial in a VA national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces, and veterans who have met minimum active duty service requirements, as applicable by law, and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty under certain circumstances or who die while on training duty are also eligible for burial, as are service members and former service members who were eligible for retired pay at the time of their death. Spouses, minor children and, under certain conditions, dependent unmarried adult children are also eligible for burial even if they predecease the veteran.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has implemented this pre-need eligibility program so that veterans, spouses and unmarried dependent adult children may better prepare for burial in a VA national cemetery before the time of need. Interested people may submit VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery, along with a copy of supporting documentation of military service such as a DD214, if readily available, by: toll-free fax at (855) 840-8299 or by mail to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office, P.O. Box 510543, St. Louis, MO 63151.

Authorized representatives can also apply on behalf of eligible claimants. An authorized agent or representative is an individual authorized by the claimant to make decisions on the claimant’s behalf. An authorized representative first needs to be recognized by VA as an authorized representative or agent by filing a VA Form 21-22 Appointment of Veterans Service Organization As Claimant Representative or VA Form 21-22a Appointment of Attorney Or Agent As Claimant Representative. You can access the forms at www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-22-ARE.pdf and VA Form 21-22a at www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-22A-ARE.pdf. Written authorization should be included with the VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery, if available. A notarized statement is not required.

The VA will review pre-need burial applications and provide written notice of a determination of eligibility. VA will store the pre-need application, supporting documentation and the decision letter to expedite burial arrangements at the time of need. We encourage you to keep the decision letter with supporting documentation with your important papers in a safe place and to discuss you burial wishes and final arrangements with your loved ones or other representatives. Submission of a pre-need burial eligibility application does not obligate the Veteran or family member to burial in a VA national cemetery.

Applicants may indicate a preference for a VA national cemetery on the application form, but a pre-need determination of eligibility does not guarantee burial in a specific VA national cemetery or a specific gravesite. VA assigns gravesites in cemeteries with available space once death has occurred and the burial is scheduled.

At your time of need, your next-of-kin, funeral home or other representative responsible for making your final arrangements should contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117 to request burial. VA will locate your pre-need decision letter and validate our determination. Because laws affecting VA burial eligibility and individual circumstances may change, upon receipt of a burial request, the VA will verify pre-need decisions in accordance with the laws in effect at that time, including bars to receipt of burial benefits.

Richard Schleeter is the veterans service officer for the La Plata County Veterans Service Office. He can be reached at 759-0117 or schleeterrs@co.laplata.co.us.

For more information

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office provides information and assis­tance to veterans and their families. For more information, visit the county website at www.co.laplata.co.us and type “veterans services” in the search window. The Veterans Service Office and the Durango VA Clinic are located at 1970 East Third Ave. The office phone number is 759-0117. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except holidays. Appointments are encouraged. To schedule an appoint­ment, call 382-6150. For clinic appointments, call 247-2214.

Help for vets

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans, family and friends. Call (800) 273-8255 and press 1. You also can text professional responders at 838255 or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net.

Health care van service

Disabled American Veterans is running a VA health-care van from Durango to Albuquerque on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from Farmington to Albuquerque on Mondays and Wednesdays. If you want to use the DAV transportation network, contact DAV coordinators at:

Durango area – 442-0149

Cortez area – (970) 676-1116

Farmington/Aztec – (505) 793-1782