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Families Who Accept Urn or Plaque to Honor Veteran Forfeit VA Headstone

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In general, any honorably discharged service member is eligible to receive Defense Department’s military funeral honors and Department of Veterans Affairs funeral and veterans burial benefits.

According to public law, these benefits include — as of Jan. 5, 2023 — the issuance of urns and commemorative plaques to families after their loved one has died. Anyone who applies for and receives this benefit, however, forfeits their government-issued VA headstone.

Section 2207 of Public Law 116-315 reads:

“If the Secretary furnishes an urn or commemorative plaque for an individual, the Secretary may not provide for such individual burial in a national cemetery or a headstone or marker. This section specifies that the Secretary shall prescribe regulations to carry out the amendment, which takes effect January 5, 2023.”

So, once the VA issues the urn or plaque, the veteran or service member is no longer eligible for burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery, nor may the VA issue a headstone, marker or medallion to mark the grave.

Many veterans and family members consider these benefits to be of significant monetary and symbolic value. While there is no legal prohibition against interment in a non-VA cemetery, the family should also consider how the interment policy of these cemeteries may change if the VA does not provide a government headstone, marker or medallion at no cost for placement in these cemeteries.

It is critical that family members consider the ultimate final disposition of the veteran’s remains and be certain of the decision to apply for an urn or plaque.

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