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NATIONAL CEMETARY ADMINISTRATION

The following is an overview of the services available to most veterans and members of the armed forces.

This information has been excerpted from the U. S. Dept of Veterans Affairs web site. Much more detail can be found at www.cem.va.gov.

Burial Eligibility

Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces and veterans who have met minimum active service duty requirements and been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Spouse, widow or widower, minor children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children, are also eligible for burial. Eligible spouses may be buried, even if they predecease the veteran. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or while performing training duty, or who have 20 years of service in reserve components of the armed forces creditable for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.

Benefits

Burial benefits include a gravesite in any of the national cemeteries with available space, the opening and closing of the grave, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and perpetual care of the grave at no cost to the family. VA pays a burial and plot allowance for those veterans eligible by law.

Arranging Burial

The next of kin or the family's funeral director may make arrangements directly with a national cemetery. Before burial can take place, cemetery staff must verify the veteran's eligibility. To enable the staff to do this, the next of kin or funeral director must provide the cemetery staff with a copy of the veteran's properly signed discharge papers, or the veteran's service, social security or VA claim numbers to use for verification of service and character of discharge.

Headstone and Marker Program

The National Cemetery Administration provides headstones and markers:

  • For the graves of eligible veterans in private and government cemeteries around the world.
  • For eligible dependents of veterans buried in national, post or state veterans cemeteries.
  • In a variety of styles: flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble, upright marble, upright granite and marble and granite niche covers.
  • Inscribed with the name, the dates of birth and death and branch of service of the deceased.
  • With an authorized emblem of belief.
  • With other approved optional text inscribed at government expense if space allows.
  • For niches to mark columbaria used for the inurnment of cremated remains.
  • For "in memory of" headstones for those cremated and scattered where allowed.

Presidential Memorial Certificate Program

  • A Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) is inscribed with the veteran's name and bears the President's signature to honor the memory of honorably discharged, deceased veterans.
  • Recipients include next of kin and loved ones.
  • Send your written PMC request to:

Presidential Memorial Certificates
Dept of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Rd
Quantico, VA 22143-3909

Burial Flag Program

  • VA provides a U. S. flag to drape the casket.
  • After the funeral service, the flag may be given to the next of kin.
  • Next of kin may donate the flag to a national cemetery for the Avenue of Flags program.

Military Funeral Honors

The Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for providing military funeral honors. The DOD program, "Honoring Those Who Served", calls for funeral directors to request military funeral honors on behalf of the veterans' families. Veterans organizations may assist in the provision of military funeral honors. In support of this program, VA national cemetery staff may assist to coordinate military funeral honors.

National Cemetery Administration History

On July 17, 1862, Congress enacted legislation that authorized President Lincoln to purchase "cemetery grounds" to be used as national cemeteries "for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country". Fourteen cemeteries were established that first year.

By 1870, the remains of nearly 300,000 Union dead had been buried in 73 national cemeteries. Most of the cemeteries were located in the southeast, near the battlefields and campgrounds of the Civil War.

The National Cemetery Administration has evolved slowly since the initial period of great challenge associated with the Civil War. All honorably discharged veterans became eligible for burial in 1873.

In the 1930s, new national cemeteries were established to serve veterans living in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Baltimore, Minneapolis, San Diego, San Francisco and San Antonio.

In 1973, Congress transferred 82 national cemeteries from the Department of the Army to the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These were added to the 21 VA cemeteries at hospitals and nursing homes to comprise 103 cemeteries in what was then the National Cemetery System.

On November 11, 1998, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act was signed, changing the name of the National Cemetery System to the National Cemetery Administration.

Today, there are a total of 139 national cemeteries. The National Cemetery Administration is responsible for 123 of them, while the National Park Service maintains 14 and the Department of the Army maintains two cemeteries - including Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1999 and 2003, with the passage of two laws, Congress directed VA to establish 12 new national cemeteries. One has been opened in Oklahoma. The rest - one in Alabama, two in California, three in Florida, one in Georgia, one in Michigan, two in Pennsylvania and one in South Carolina - will be located near large populations of veterans who currently do not have access to a burial option.

Additional Information

Dept of Veterans Affairs
National Cemetery Admin (41C2)
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420

1-800-827-1000

More detailed information can be found at www.cem.va.gov.

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