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Funerals 101

Benefits That Help Pay For A Funeral Or Provide A Cemetery Plot

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Each of the following benefits help pay for a funeral or provide a cemetery plot:

Social Security

A one-time Lump-Sum Death Benefit payment of $255 is payable.

The benefit is paid to the surviving spouse if:

  • He or she was living with the beneficiary at the time of death
  • OR if the two parties were living apart, the surviving spouse was eligible for Social Security benefits on the beneficiary's earnings record for the month of death.

If there is no surviving spouse, the payment is made to a child who was eligible for benefits on the beneficiary's earning record in the month of death.

Unions and Other Organizations

Many unions and other organizations provide burial benefits. Check with a union or other organizations to which you belong to find out if there is one for which you are eligible.

Workers Compensation

Workers Compensation insurance usually includes a death benefit.


Veterans are entitled to a free burial in a national cemetery with a grave marker. Alternatively, the Veterans Administration pays a cemetery plot allowance of $300.

To be eligible for a burial benefit the veteran must:

  • Be in receipt of VA compensation or pension benefits at the time of death.
  • Have been discharged from military service due to disability or died in a VA hospital.

A copy of the discharge papers will usually be required so store them with your Will, or let your Personal Representative/Executor know where they are. (To learn more, see Personal Representative.)

If you have a question about whether you are eligible for the benefit or want to obtain an application form, call the VA's Memorial Programs Service at 800.697.6947 or find the application online at offsite link.

Many states have state veteran cemeteries. Eligibility requirements and other details vary. Contact your state for more information.

Beware of commercial cemeteries that advertise "veteran's specials." The Federal Trade Commission indicates that these cemeteries may offer a free plot for a veteran, but charge exorbitant rates for an adjoining plot for the spouse, as well as high fees for opening and closing each grave. Be sure to evaluate all costs.

At the least, a veteran can receive a United States flag to drape the casket.

Veterans' Spouses and Dependent Children

Veterans' spouses and dependent children are entitled to a free burial in a national cemetery with a grave marker. This right also extends to some civilians who provided military related service and some Public Health Service Personnel.

  • There are no charges for opening or closing the grave, for a vault or liner, or for setting the marker in a national cemetery.
  • The family is generally responsible for other expenses including transportation to the cemetery.

Other Government Programs

Check all federal and state government programs for which you qualify to determine if there is a burial benefit for which you qualify. For federal benefits, see: offsite link.

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