FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why should I plan a funeral for my loved one?
A funeral or memorial is a customary way to recognize death and its finality. Funerals are held for the living to show respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grief process. They also give mourners a chance to share stories, create memories, fulfill religious beliefs & customs, participate in a support system, and gather at a peaceful place during a time of confusion and uncertainty.
What tasks are involved in arranging a funeral?
There can be as many as 200 tasks when planning a funeral. Many of them are listed below. Our Funeral Director will coordinate most of these for you, after meeting with you at a private consultation.
- Obtain the signature of the attending physician, coroner or medical examiner on the required certificate; file the certificate with the registrar of vital statistics where the death occurred
- Ensure compliance with government regulators
- Transfer the deceased from the place of death to the funeral home (local or out of town)
- Obtain family history
- Make decisions regarding the remains of the deceased
- Determine the budget (if funeral has not been pre-arranged)
- Determine the funeral or memorial service location(s), such as church, chapel, or graveside
- Plan for a viewing/visitation and determine open or closed casket
- Choose the final resting place (cemetery, mausoleum, private land, etc.)
- Make necessary arrangements with clergy, church and cemetery officials
- Obtain certified copies of the death certificate, as necessary
- Procure the burial permit and file with the cemetery
- Select and purchase the casket, outer burial container or urn
- Select a monument/marker
- Order and schedule the delivery of all products/merchandise
- Compose and submit newspaper and other media notices
- Choose clothing & jewelry
- Select poems, scripture, readings
- Select music: taped, live musicians, etc.
- Choose pallbearers
- Arrange for transportation of the deceased
- Secure flower/equipment trucks, as necessary
- Purchase acknowledgment cards, register books, memorial folders, etc.
- Purchase a door wreath & flowers
- Arrange for family transportation
- Complete social security papers and secure social security benefits
- Secure Veterans benefits (if applicable)
- Secure life insurance benefits (if applicable)
- Contact insurance agents
- Complete accounting, clerical and filing work
- Answer telephone calls
- Notify other organizations that your loved one participated in
What is the role of a funeral director?
Funeral directors are caregivers, advisors, and administrators. They make the arrangements for the transportation of the deceased, complete all necessary paperwork, and carry out the wishes of the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the deceased. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death, are trained to answer questions about grief, and can recommend sources of professional help.
Some people cannot afford basic funeral services. What other financial resources are available?
Other than the family, there are veteran, union, and other organizational benefits to pay for funerals, including, in certain instances, a lump sum death payment from Social Security. In most states, some form of public aid allowances are available from either the state, county, city, or a combination. Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them.
Does Social Security provide a death benefit?
A surviving spouse who lived in the same household as the deceased person at the time of death.
A surviving spouse eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.
A child or children eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.
Your funeral director will prepare the necessary social security forms.
Who is eligible to receive social security benefits?
In order for a family member to receive benefits, the deceased worker must have credit for work covered by Social Security, ranging from 1 ½ to 10 years depending on his or her age at death.
The following family members may receive benefits:
- A widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled), or at any age if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
- A divorced widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled) if the marriage lasted 10 years, or if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
- Unmarried children up to 18 (19 if they are attending a primary or secondary school full lime).
- Children who were disabled before reaching 22, as long as they remained disabled.
- Dependent parent or parents 62 or older.
How do I apply for social security benefits?
You may apply at any Social Security office or, if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just dial the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 and the operator will schedule an appointment for you or arrange for the local Social Security office to take your claim by telephone. To speak with a representative, call between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm on regular business days. At other times and on weekends and holidays, you may leave a message and they will call you back, in most cases, the next business day.
Where can I get more information on social security benefits?
For more information on social security benefits, visit the Social Security Administration web site at: www.ssa.gov
Am I entitled to Veterans Benefits?
You may qualify for certain benefits as outlined below:
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veteran’s death is service connected. VA also will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-disabled veteran to the national cemetery nearest the home of a deceased that has available gravesites. In such cases, the person who bore the veteran’s burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA. VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance for veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled to compensation but for receipt of military retirement pay. Eligibility also is established when death occurs in a VA facility or a nursing home with which VA contracted. Additional costs of transportation of the remains may be reimbursed. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims of service-connected deaths. In other deaths, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation.
VA will pay a $300 plot allowance when the veteran is not buried in a cemetery that is under U.S. Government jurisdiction if the veteran is discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, if the veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension or would have been in receipt of compensation but for receipt of military retired pay, or if the veteran died while hospitalized by VA. The plot allowance is not payable solely on wartime service.
If the veteran is buried without charge for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials, the $300 plot allowance may be paid to the state. Burial expenses paid by the deceased’s employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed.
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 may be given to the next of kin or a close associate. VA also will issue a flag on behalf of a service member who was missing in action and later presumed dead. Flags are issued at VA regional offices, national cemeteries, and post offices.
Burial in National Cemeteries VA Cemeteries
Burial benefits in a VA national cemetery include the gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care. Many national cemeteries have columbaria for the inurnment of cremated remains or special gravesites for the burial of cremated remains. Headstones and markers and their placement are provided at the government’s expense.
Veterans and armed forces members who die on active duty are eligible for burial in one of VA’s 114 national cemeteries. An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from active duty under honorable or general conditions and have completed the required period of service. Persons entitled to retired pay as a result of 20 years creditable service with a reserve component are eligible. A U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in a war also may be eligible.
Spouses and minor children of eligible veterans and of armed forces members also may be buried in a national cemetery. A surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who married a nonveteran, and whose remarriage was terminated by death or divorce, is eligible for burial in a national cemetery.
Gravesites in national cemeteries cannot be reserved. Funeral directors or others making burial arrangements must apply at the time of death. Reservations made under previous programs are honored. The National Cemetery System normally does not conduct burials on weekends. A weekend caller, however, will be directed to one of three strategically located VA cemetery offices that remain open during weekends to schedule burials at the cemetery of the caller’s choice during the following week.
Headstones and Markers
VA provides headstones and markers for the unmarked graves of veterans anywhere in the world and for eligible dependents of veterans buried in national, state veteran or military cemeteries.
Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble, upright granite and upright marble types are available to mark the grave in a style consistent with the place of burial. Niche markers also are available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.
Headstones and markers are inscribed with the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death, and branch of service. Optional items that also may be inscribed at VA expense are: military grade, rank or rate; war service such as World War II; months and days of birth and death; an emblem reflecting one’s beliefs; valor awards; and the Purple Heart. Additional items may be inscribed at private expense.
When burial is in a national, state veteran or military cemetery, the headstone marker is ordered through the cemetery, inscription, shipping and placement can be obtained from the cemetery.
When burial occurs in a cemetery other than a national, military post or state veterans cemetery, the headstone marker must be applied for from VA. It is shipped at government expense. VA, however, does not pay the cost of placing the headstone or marker on the grave. To apply, you must complete VA form 40-1330 and forward it to Director, Office of Memorial Programs (403A), National Cemetery System, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC 20420. Forms and assistance are available at VA application you may call the Director, Office of Memorial Programs at 1-800-697-6947.
VA cannot issue a headstone or marker for a spouse or child buried in a private cemetery. Twenty-year reservists without active duty service are eligible for a headstone or marker, if they are entitled to military retired pay at the time of death.
Headstones or Markers for Memorial Plots
To memorialize an eligible veteran whose remains are not available for burial, VA will provide a plot and headstone or marker in a national cemetery. The headstone or marker is the same as that used to identify a grave except that the mandatory phrase “In Memory of” precedes the authorized inscription. The headstone or marker is available to memorialize eligible veterans or deceased active-duty members whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science, or cremated and scattered. The memorial marker may be provided for placement in a cemetery other than a national cemetery. In such a case, VA supplies the marker and pays the cost of shipping, but does not pay for the plot or the placement of the marker. Only a relative recognized as the next of kin may apply for the benefit. Headstone and Gravemarker Program:1-800-697-6947,8:00am to 4:30pm Eastern Time.
Presidential Memorial Certificates
The Presidential Memorial Certificate is a parchment certificate with a calligraphic inscription expressing the nation’s recognition of the veteran’s service. The veteran’s name is inscribed and the certificate bears the signature of the President. Certificates are issued in the name of honorably discharged, deceased veterans. Eligible recipients include next of kin, other relatives and friends. The award of a certificate to one eligible recipient does not preclude certificates to other eligible recipients. The veteran may have died at any time in the past. The local VA regional office generally originates the application for a Presidential Memorial Certificate. The next of kin also may request a certificate. Requests should be accompanied by a copy of a document such as a discharge to establish honorable service. VA regional offices can assist in applying for certificates.