The VA National Cemetery Scheduling Office and VA National Cemeteries have received numerous calls from family members and funeral homes asking how they can apply for the funeral expense reimbursement program which covers funeral expenses when the death of a loved one was linked to COVID-19.
This new program, which began April 12, 2021, is fully managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). VA has no role in creating or tracking claims for this reimbursement program.
To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit this FEMA website: https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance/faq.
Before you start
- Gather the documents required by FEMA before calling FEMA to apply. Family members must provide documents to make a claim. You don’t need any VA document.
- The only way to apply is to call FEMA’s toll-free number. There is no way to apply online.
- Only the person who covered the funeral expenses can call the FEMA toll-free number, not a third party such as a funeral director or cemetery representative.
- FEMA only wants documents showing the costs you incurred. If your loved one was buried in a Virginia National Cemetery, there was no charge for things associated with the cemetery, such as the headstone or marker, the tomb or columbarium niche, the grave cover and the opening and closing costs. the grave, the mounting of the tombstone, etc. All of these items were part of the Veteran’s Burial Allowance with VA.
- The FEMA program can be used to reimburse a family for funeral-related expenses that the VA does not cover, such as the cost of the casket or urn, clergy fees, and funeral home fees. The FEMA website has more details.
- The Veterans Benefits Administration also pays a burial allowance to families under certain circumstances, whether or not the veteran is buried in a VA cemetery. To learn more about this VA benefit and who qualifies, click here: https://www.va.gov/burials-memorials/veterans-burial-allowance/.
Please be patient with the FEMA call center as it is currently handling a very high volume of calls. If you get a busy signal, try again later. There is no deadline for submitting complaints.
Finally, be prepared before you call FEMA’s toll-free number. The FEMA website provides all the details on what you need to do: https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance/faq.
The ‘Melnyk is the head of public affairs for the VA National Cemetery administration.