VA National Cemetery Pre-Need Eligibility Determination Program

ELIGIBILITY DETERMINATIONS FOR BURIAL – IN ADVANCE OF NEED

 Summary

Many individuals would like to know, in advance, whether they are eligible for burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemetery. To assist them, VA is launching an initiative, the “Pre-Need Eligibility Determination Program,” specifically aimed at helping individuals with burial planning and making sure their wishes are known.

VA will upon request make pre-need determinations of eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery in advance of need. Having this information will help Veterans use the VA benefits they have earned, for their families and for themselves.

Once VA determines that individuals are eligible, those individuals will be entitled to the same benefits they would receive were a determination made at the time of need (time of death). These include any or all of the following, at no cost to the family:

  • Burial in any open VA national cemetery, including opening and closing of the grave
  • Grave liner
  • Perpetual care of the gravesite
  • Government-furnished upright headstone, flat marker or niche cover
  • Burial flag
  • Presidential Memorial Certificate

Eligibility

The law provides eligibility for burial in a national cemetery to:

  • Members of the armed forces
  • Veterans who have met minimum active duty service requirements as applicable by law and who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable

Members of the reserve components of the armed forces are also eligible, provided they:

  • Died while on active duty under certain circumstances, or while performing training duty;
  • Have 20 years of service creditable for retired pay; or
  • Were called to active duty and served the full term of service.

The Veterans’ spouse, minor children and under certain conditions dependent unmarried adult children are eligible for burial even if they predecease the eligible Veteran.

Applying for Benefits

VA encourages Veterans and their spouses to apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination.  Authorized representatives can also apply on behalf of eligible claimants.

To apply, submit:

  • VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery ; and
  • Proof of military service, such as a DD Form 214, if available.  If unable to locate proof of military service, apply anyway as VA will attempt to obtain military records necessary to make a determination.

Information should be submitted to the VA National Cemetery Scheduling Office by any of the following methods:

  • Fax:  1-855-840-8299 (this is a toll-free number)
  • Email: Eligibility.PreNeed@va.gov
  • Postal mail: NCSO, P.O. Box 510543, St. Louis MO 63151

Individuals do not need to request a pre-need burial determination to be eligible at the time of need. There is no obligation for those found eligible to be buried in a VA national cemetery.

What to Expect After Applying

VA will review pre-need burial applications and provide written notice of a determination of eligibility (a decision letter). VA will save the information electronically for future reference and to expedite processing burial claims at the time of need.

Note: Applicants should save a copy of all documents submitted and the decision letter received. It is also a good idea to communicate with one’s loved ones or estate planners where the documents are, and about the preference to be buried in a VA national cemetery.

At The Time of Need

At the eligible individual’s time of need (death), the family or personal representative responsible for making the final arrangements, should contact VA’s National Cemetery Scheduling Office to request burial benefits. VA will confirm the pre-need eligibility determination and schedule the burial.

Because laws and personal circumstances change, VA will validate the pre-need decision using the laws in effect at the time VA receives the burial request. We will also check for any bars to receipt of the burial benefit.

Please note that applicants may indicate a preference for a VA national cemetery on the application form, but a pre-need determination of eligibility does not guarantee burial in a specific VA national cemetery or a specific gravesite. VA assigns gravesites in cemeteries with available space once death has occurred and the burial is scheduled.

For More Information

Additional information about the VA Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility Program is available on the VA website at http://www.cem.va.gov/preneed.

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 VA Agent Orange benefits update:

A new study has found a close relationship between Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War and high blood pressure, a conclusion that could lead the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to dramatically expand the number of veterans eligible for compensation. The study, published last in early NOV by VA researchers in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found a higher rate of hypertension among members of the Army Chemical Corps who handled Agent Orange during the war compared to those who didn’t. Corps members who
served in Vietnam but did not spray the chemicals also had a higher rate of hypertension than their peers who served outside Vietnam. Both results were statistically significant and add to a body of evidence linking Agent Orange exposure and hypertension.

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 MyVA311: One number to call to reach VA:

VA is introducing 1-844-MyVA311 (1-844-698-2311) as a go-to source for Veterans and their families who don’t know what number to call. This new national toll-free number will help eliminate the feeling of frustration and confusion that Veterans and their families have expressed when navigating the 1000-plus phone numbers that currently exist.
With 1-844-MyVA311, Veterans, families, and caregivers can access information about VA services like disability, pension, healthcare eligibility, enrollment, and burial benefits, in addition to a self-service locator to find the nearest VA facility. And if they’re looking for immediate assistance with housing or are having a mental health crisis, MyVA311 will route callers to the Homeless Veteran help line and the Veterans Crisis Line.

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 The Pentagon Is now deploying reservists without granting GI bill benefits:

By law, reservists involuntarily mobilized under a new and obscure deployment code do not receive credit for the GI Bill while they are activated.
Nearly 300 Marines came home from their seven-month deployment to Central America this week. They have a few things in tow — wood carvings from local artisans and the grit of experience responding to Hurricane Matthew, among the world’s worst recent natural disasters.
But the reservists returned without something that most were counting on: seven months of GI Bill benefits.
A relatively new and obscure deployment code, a measure the Pentagon created in 2014 to scale back spending on benefits, is the reason. By law, reservists involuntarily mobilized under Title 10, section 12304b, do not receive credit for the GI Bill while they are activated.
It isn’t too late, you can make a difference by letting your elected officials know your opinion

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• Servicemembers Civil Relief Act:

A new Justice Department pilot program is designed to shore up enforcement of laws that protect troops, veterans and their families against financial predators. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Enforcement Support Pilot Program will pay for assistant U.S. attorney and trial attorney positions to help litigate complaints related to financial and housing issues, as well as other concerns. The assistant U.S. district positions will be funded in districts with major military installations, and extra trial attorneys will staff DoJ’s Civil Rights Division. The assistant U.S. attorneys will coordinate with military attorneys and will bring claims, along with the Civil Rights Division, against those who target service members. The pilot program will provide this full-time support for SCRA enforcement through fiscal 2018.

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• Tricare auditory care:

Certain hearing aid implants are now covered for all Tricare users under a policy update announced 8 NOV. Existing rules block hearing aid coverage for retirees, Tricare for Life and Tricare Reserve Select users. But the policy change reclassifies a certain type of implanted hearing aid — Auditory Osseointegrated Implant (AOI) Devices – as a “prosthetic,” opening up coverage of the implant to all Tricare beneficiaries. The devices improve hearing through
an implant inserted in the skull behind the ear, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Combined with a microphone and hearing aid components, incoming sounds cause the implant to vibrate, which is then transmitted to the patient’s inner ear via bone conduction.
The implants are used to treat conductive and mixed hearing loss or singled-sided deafness, according to the association. Cochlear implants, another implantable type of aid, are used to treat those with non-functioning cochlea or those who have bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. Cochlear implants are currently covered by Tricare for all types of beneficiaries. The change for AOI devices impacts all Tricare users, including Tricare for Life users. The decision to expand coverage was made as part of a routine policy review, a Tricare official said. While the changes are retroactively effective to June 30, 2016, Tricare’s regional contractors won’t be ready to answer questions or process claims for the implants until 7 DEC. The new policy does create parameters for what kind of hearing loss qualifies for coverage. “AOI devices … are covered as a prosthetic device when necessary due to significant conditions resulting from trauma, congenital
anomalies, or disease,” it states. That means that retirees whose hearing loss can be blamed on other causes that are not trauma, disease or a birth defect don’t qualify for coverage. Non-implantable devices, such as the BAHA Softband, which gives hearing help to children who are too young for the AOI implant, are still excluded from coverage, according to the policy.

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• As retired military, are you creating a future debt for your spouse?

You may be creating a debt for your spouse when you fail to update your Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) election or fail to pay your SBP premium when your military retired pay is offset by your VA disability compensation.
SBP premiums are deducted from your military retired pay but if your VA disability compensation offsets your retired pay to the point where the SBP premiums cannot be fully paid from your retiredment pay, you create a debt to the government

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• Veteran or not?

There are times when veteran organization service officers are asked for the definition of a veteran by a member of the Guard.
As a retired National Guard member with a 20 year letter and no active duty time, I am not considered a veteran not to be recognized as such, but upon death I am entitled to a “Veteran Medallion” for my grave stone. Why is it that I cannot be recogfnized as a veteran when alive?
The answer is that because Congress has defined “veteran” tyo mean a person who served in the active military and who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable (38 USC $101(2). Reserve and National Guard members without active military service do not meet the legal definition of a veteran, generally, all Natinal Guard and Reserve members qualify for some VA benefits

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DAV-DAVA National Commander’s Call to Action

Congress is back and has just a few weeks remaining this year to pass historic claims and appeals modernization legislation and we need your help to make sure they don’t leave town without getting this done.

To address this issue, DAV, other VSOs and VA officials developed and agreed on a new framework for processing appeals that also included changes to the claims process. This new framework is contained within several pieces of legislation (S. 3170, S. 3328, H.R. 5083 and H.R. 5620) and Congress must pass one of these bills, or another bill containing the appeals modernization framework before they adjourn for the year.

This new appeals process would create multiple options for veterans to redress benefit decisions made by the Veterans Benefits Administration and reduce the amount of time a veteran must wait to receive a decision. If a veteran continuously pursues redress within one year of the last decision, either at the Regional Office (RO) level or at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), they would be able to preserve their earliest effective date. The legislation would let veterans file a formal appeal directly to the Board, allows the Board to consider evidence in the first instance in certain circumstances and retain hearing options before the Board or at the RO.

The new appeals process envisioned within and pending legislation would provide veterans with a more equitable and flexible claims and appeals process. There is rare bipartisan support in the House and Senate for claims and appeals modernization legislation as contained within these bills. Time in the 114th Congress is running out quickly and we need Congress to act on this legislation before they adjourn.

Currently, veterans are experiencing extreme delays waiting for decisions on their appeals. Over the past few years, the number of appeals awaiting decisions has risen dramatically to over 460,000 and the average time for an appeal decision is between three and five years, this delay is simply unacceptable.

A failure of Congress to act now will result in continued growth of the appeals backlog and veterans will have to wait longer and longer for decisions on their appeals. If faithfully implemented and fully funded by Congress, this legislation would enable veterans to get more timely and accurate decisions on their appeals. We have a unique moment in time with significant support from major VSOs, the Administration and both chambers of Congress for VA claims and appeals reform.

DAV needs its members and supporters to reach out to their Members of Congress and request their support for claims and appeals reform legislation contained within S. 3328, S. 3170, H.R. 5083 and H.R. 5620. Please use the prepared emails to contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to take action to get the legislation enacted before the end of the 114th Congress.

As always, thank you for your support of DAV’s legislative efforts. Your participation in DAV’s Commander’s Action Network makes us a more effective advocate to protect and enhance the interests of veterans who have sacrificed in service to our country.

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• VA and Social Security partner to speed up disability decisions for veterans:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a new Health IT initiative that enables VA to share medical records electronically with social security disabilty processors. This secure process will save time and money resulting in better service for Veterans and dependents who apply for social security disability benefits. The SSA requests nearly 15 million medical records from health care organizations yearly to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. For decades, SSA obtained medical records through a manual process. This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain Veterans’ medical records entirely electronically

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