Effective March 2012, a new VA claim form must be used to request a government headstone/marker for a private cemetery or state veteran's cemetery. The VA policy regarding who can submit this request has recently changed to ensure that family members are involved in the process. According to the VA, there have been several instances where good-hearted, well-meaning individuals and organizations took action to mark graves or replace headstones without the knowledge of family members.
Representatives may apply for a headstone or marker if they are authorized by the next of kin. Therefore, under the new application process, the "applicant" who submits the claim may be the
- Decedent's next-of-kin (NOK); or
- Authorized representative on behalf of decedent or
- Authorized representative on behalf of next-of-kin (written authorization required).
If someone other than the NOK, such as a funeral director, is applying for the headstone, the application package must include a written statement signed by the NOK or decedent authorizing that person (the applicant) to apply for this benefit. A notarized statement is not required for these purposes.
Generally, in almost all instances, there are family members still alive, although it may require some research to find them, who would be willing to sign an authorization letter. Unfortunately, if the family does not want to apply for the marker or give written authorization, there are no provisions for the VA to issue a marker for the veteran's grave.
When burial is in a private cemetery, VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker must be submitted (along with written authorization if other than the NOK is applying), along with Veterans military discharge documents, to request a Government-provided headstone or marker. NOTE: Do not send original documents, as they will not be returned.
In addition, the person/business (i.e., funeral home, cemetery, NOK) that will accept the prepaid delivery must also sign the form.
TO SUBMIT A CLAIM:
- MAIL claims to:
Memorial Programs Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903
- FAX claims and supporting documents to 1-800-455-7143. IMPORTANT: If faxing more than one claim - fax each claim package (claim plus supporting documents) individually, i.e., disconnect the call and redial for each submission.
Source: The New York State Funeral Directors Association