VA under criticism for plan to issue urns, plaques over concerns vets won't be buried with spouses

The National Funeral Directors Association and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs are speaking out against the proposal.
Los Angeles National Cemetery

A new Department of Veterans Affairs proposal to start giving urns and memorial plaques to the families of deceased veterans is being criticized for potentially barring veterans from being buried with their spouses, among other things.

The proposed rule would allow the interment of cremated remains within a private residence or an above-ground setting such as a mausoleum, but those whose cremated remains are buried in a cemetery would not be eligible for the urn and plaque.

Even if a deceased veteran chooses an urn and plaque, their spouse is still able to decide to be buried in the ground. The National Funeral Directors Association voiced concerns that the plan prevents the remains of cremated veterans from being laid to rest with their spouses who decide to be buried rather than cremated. 

The association said that because the plot must be opened to bury a spouse, including the other spouse's urn "would not add an additional cost to the VA" and it "would be no different than including a memento in the casket." However, the VA's proposed rule would prevent the cremated remains from being buried with the body. 

"We are concerned that the VA’s interpretation could mean a grieving spouse may decide to claim the urn benefit without realizing that their decision impacts the veteran’s future eligibility for ground burial," the association also said. 

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs also spoke out against the proposal in a comment last month.

"We believe that denying this significant burial benefit, that also provides perpetual care, over items of relatively low cost could unintentionally penalize Veterans," the agency said. 

The agency also said that if cremated veterans cannot be buried, there is a risk that more veteran remains will be unclaimed.

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