While everyone should take the time to consider their end-of-life plans with family and loved ones, that process is all the more important for veterans and active service members. That’s because there are a number of circumstances, benefits, and services these men and women will have to take into consideration that don’t apply to the civilian population. By understanding how the unique elements of membership in the Armed Forces impact end-of-life planning, veterans, service members, and their loved ones can rest assured knowing their future is stable.
Knowing the Federal Benefits
Any discussion regarding end-of-life planning for veterans should start with a thorough understanding of the offerings on the table from the U.S. government. As part of military service, the government provides an array of services and opportunities to lessen the burden on families of the deceased. However, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, there are certain terms veterans must have met – such as honorable discharge from the armed forces – to qualify for these benefits. Some of these items include:
- Burial or interment in a national cemetery, which means continual upkeep and care, a marker, a flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate
- Reimbursement for funeral-related costs and burial or interment expenses, within certain limits
- Life insurance options under veteran policy TRICARE
- Home loans or basic housing allowances
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, a monthly stipend for which some veterans’ families will qualify
Make sure you keep your veteran loved one’s story alive.
Preserving Veteran Memories
End-of-life planning is a half logistical and half emotional endeavor. As important as it is to understand benefits from the VA and arrange for a financial and practical future without the veteran’s involvement, it’s also crucial to keep that veteran’s memory and experiences alive.
There are two primary ways to embrace that task. One involves making arrangements for your veteran loved one to tell his or her story as often as possible. If a veteran has grandchildren, devise a way to capture his or her stories so those young people can carry them throughout their lives and retell them over and over again. Veterans carry important stories – sometimes burdensome and sometimes enlightening – that serve as bridge to the past.
The other way to prepare for a veteran’s passing is to ensure all of his or her belongings are properly protected and enshrined, where appropriate. Because veterans often hold onto many artifacts and keepsakes, it isn’t enough to pack up all the old possessions into a box and stow them away. In some cases, these items tell a compelling story. That’s why many veterans and their families opt for cremation and interment over traditional burial – columbariums provide an elegant, safe way to keep veterans’ important belongings on display as part of a timeless memorial.
As with any end-of-life planning conversation, there can be a lot of ground to cover. National Cremation Society has plenty of valuable resources and advice to get the conversation started and tie in the relevant materials.