March 11, 2002
BURIAL EXPENSES FOR INDIGENT VETERANS
By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst
You asked if there is any money available to help pay the funeral expenses of a veteran who died without leaving enough money to pay for his burial.
The Soldiers,' Sailors' and Marines' Fund will provide up to $600 funeral benefits for qualified veterans who die without enough money to pay. Generally, veterans must have 90 days of wartime service as defined in law and meet other criteria. Funeral expenses cannot be more than $5,000.
Towns may pay up to $1,200 funeral expenses for anyone, including a veteran, who dies without enough money or legally liable relatives able to pay. (The state reimburses towns for 80% of this expense.)
The state, when requested by the veterans' affairs commissioner, must pay $150 burial expenses for any veteran who, the commissioner determines, did not leave enough money to pay. The funeral expenses must be less than $2,000, and the veteran's assets must be less than $5,000.
The federal Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) provides a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veteran's death is service-connected. It will pay a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance for other qualified veterans who meet certain criteria.
Applications for the last three programs are available at funeral directors' offices statewide.
SOLDIERS,' SAILORS' AND MARINES FUND
The Soldiers,' Sailors' and Marines' Fund is a self-sustaining trust fund created by the legislature in 1919 to provide benefits, such as money for burial expenses, to needy eligible veterans and their dependents and surviving spouses. Specifically, the fund is for:
furnishing food, wearing apparel, medical or surgical aid or care or relief to, or in bearing the funeral expenses of, soldiers, sailors or marines who performed service in time of war as defined in subsection (a) of section 27-103, in any branch of the military service of the United States, or who were engaged in any of the wars waged by the United States during said periods in the forces of any government associated with the United States who have been honorably discharged therefrom or honorably released from active service therein. . .to their spouses who are living with them, or to their widows or widowers who were living with them at the time of death, or dependent children under eighteen years of age who may be in need of the same (CGS § 27-140).
With regard to burial expenses, the fund will provide up to $600 for qualified veterans whose funeral expenses are not more than $5,000.
To qualify for aid, including burial expenses, a veteran must have served in a branch of the U.S. military or a government associated with the United States during (or in, where applicable) specified wars (CGS § 27-103, attached). Eligibility is also contingent upon the veteran having been honorably discharged from service. The applicant must demonstrate need.
Aid applications must be made to the appropriate fund representative. Applicants can get this information by contacting their local American Legion Post, town clerk's office or local social service departments. Applicants may also contact:
Soldiers,' Sailors' and Marines Fund
101 South St.
West Hartford, CT 06110
Tel. (860) 953-4345
The applicant must provide documentation to verify the veteran's eligibility and support the claim of need. Aggrieved parties can appeal following steps outlined in the procedures governing disbursement of funds.
State Veterans' Affairs Payment
When any veteran dies and does not leave enough money to pay the necessary expenses of his last sickness and burial, as determined by the commissioner after consulting with the probate court, the state must pay $150 towards his funeral expenses or cremation. The claim must be made within one year after death or interment, if the veteran died abroad (CGS § 27-118).
In practice, the funeral expenses must be less than $2,000. And the veteran must leave less than $5,000 in assets. The comptroller may present a claim against the decedent's estate if it appears afterwards that the decedent left any estate.
By law, towns may pay for the funeral of a person who dies without enough money or legally liable relatives able to pay. (The state reimburses towns for 80% of this expense.) The maximum a town must pay is $1,200, but this is reduced by the amount of (1) money the decedent had in a revocable or irrevocable funeral contract; (2) a prepaid funeral contract; (3) the face value of a life insurance policy; and (4) contributions of more than $2,800 from friends, family, and all other sources.
Federal VA payments
The federal VA provides a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veteran's death is service-connected. It will pay $300 burial and funeral expenses for veterans who, at the time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been so entitled if they were not
getting military retirement pay. Veterans are also eligible if they died in a federal VA facility, nursing home under VA contract, or state veterans' nursing home. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims for service-connected deaths, but for other deaths, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation.
The federal VA will also pay a $300 plot allowance when a veteran is not buried in a cemetery under U.S. government jurisdiction if the veteran (1) was discharged from active duty because of a service-connected disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, (2) was receiving compensation or pension or would have been if he were not receiving military retirement pay, or (3) died in a VA facility. The $300 may be paid to the state if the veteran is buried in a state-owned veterans' cemetery without charge for the cost of a plot or interment. Burial expenses paid by the decedent's employer or a state agency are not reimbursable. More information on the federal program is available at http://www.cem.va.gov. Interested parties may also call 1-800-827-1000 and speak with a benefits counselor. Applications for aid are available at the funeral directors' offices statewide.