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New VA burial benefits in effect

By Susan Junker BCC Contributor

The Veterans Administration has recently improved monetary burial benefits for both service-related and non-service related deaths to simplify the program and pay eligible survivors more quickly and efficiently.
New regulations authorize VA to pay - without a written application - most eligible surviving spouses basic monetary burial benefits at the maximum amount authorized in law through automated systems, rather than reimbursing them for actual costs incurred.
Currently, VA pays for burial and funeral expenses on a reimbursement basis, which requires survivors to submit receipts for relatively small one-time payments that VA generally pays at the maximum amount permitted by law. Now, the VA can pay at a flat rate, burial and plot or interment allowances, enabling VA to automate payment of burial benefits to most eligible surviving spouses and more efficiently process other burial benefit claims.
The burial allowance for a non-service connected death is $300, and up to $2,000 for a death connected with military service. For non-service connected death, several categories determine the amount of burial and funeral expense that will be paid. For example, VA will pay up to $700, if hospitalized by VA at time of death, or $300, if not hospitalized by VA, and a $700 plot-interment allowance if not buried in a national cemetery).
The time period in which the death occurred also determines the benefit that will be paid. For deaths that occurred between Dec. 1, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2011, VA will pay up to $300 toward burial-funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance. For deaths that occurred between April 1, 1988 and Sept. 30, 2011, VA will pay $300 toward burial and funeral expenses - for veterans hospitalized by the VA at the time of death.
Eligibility requirements include the following criteria:
• You paid for a veteran's burial or funeral, AND
• You have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased veteran's employer, AND
• The Veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, AND
• The Veteran died because of a service-related disability, OR
• The Veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR
• The Veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his-her military retirement or disability pay, OR
• The Veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR
• The Veteran 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
• The Veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date or death, OR
• The Veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.
To apply for this benefit, the survivor will need to provide an acceptable proof of death, receipted bills or statement of account from the funeral home or cemetery owner. Additionally, VA Form 21-530, Application for Burial Allowance, must be completed and submitted. The form and instructions are available at http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21P-530-ARE.pdf.
For in person assistance, contact the Bandera County Veterans Service Officer Mary Jo Schaffer at 830-460-1643, or the Service Officer at the American Legion Post 157 Amador Lugo at 830-796-7528. Assistance is also available at the Kerrville Medical Center from the Texas Veterans Commission Counselor Ben Rosario at 830-792-2553. These officials can also assist with other burial benefits such as flags, headstones and markers.
For the complete VA News Release, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special-burial.asp.