Establishing Eligibility for Funeral Services

Eligibility for Interment (Ground Burial of Casketed or Cremated Remains)

An in-ground burial at Arlington National Cemetery

Eligibility for interment at Arlington National Cemetery is verified at the time of need (at the time of death) and cannot be verified by the cemetery or accommodated before that time. However, in accordance with Title 32 Code of Federal Regulations Part 553, section 15a, the following individuals are eligible for inurnment (Columbarium or Niche Wall) at Arlington National Cemetery:

  1. Any active duty member of the Armed Forces (except those members serving on active duty for training only).
  2. Any retired member of the Armed Forces. A retired member of the Armed Forces, in the context of this paragraph, is a retired member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or a Reserve component who has served on active duty (other than for training), is carried on an official retired list, and is entitled to receive retired pay stemming from service in the Armed Forces. If, at the time of death, a retired member of the Armed Forces is not entitled to receive retired pay stemming from his service in the Armed Forces until some future date, the retired member will not be eligible for ground burial.
  3. Any former member of the Armed Forces separated for physical disability prior to 1 October 1949 who has served on active duty (other than for training) and who would have been eligible for retirement under the provisions of 10 United States Code (U.S.C.) 1201 had that statute been in effect on the date of his separation.
  4. Any former member of the Armed Forces whose last active duty (other than for training) military service terminated honorably and who has been awarded one of the following decorations:
    1. Medal of Honor
    2. Distinguished Service Cross (Air Force Cross or Navy Cross)
    3. Distinguished Service Medal
    4. Silver Star
    5. Purple Heart
  5. Persons who have held any of the following positions provided their last period of active duty (other than for training) as a member of the Armed Forces terminated honorably:
    1. An elective office of the United States Government
    2. Office of the Chief Justice of the United States or of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
    3. An office listed in 5 U.S.C. 5312 or 5 U.S.C. 5313
    4. The Chief of a mission who was at any time during his/her tenure classified in class I under the provisions of Section 411 of the Act of 13 August 1946, 60 Stat. 1002, as amended (22 U.S.C. 866, 1964 ed.)
  6. Any former prisoner of war who, while a prisoner of war, served honorably in the active military, naval, or air service, whose last period of active military, naval, or air service terminated honorably and who died on or after November 30, 1993.
    1. The term “former prisoner of war” means a person who, while serving in the active military, naval, or air service, was forcibly detained or interned in line of duty—
      1. By an enemy government or its agents, or a hostile force, during a period of war; or
      2. By a foreign government or its agents, or a hostile force, under circumstances which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs finds to have been comparable to the circumstances under which persons have generally been forcibly detained or interned by enemy governments during periods of war.
    2. The term "active military, naval, or air service" includes active duty, any period of active duty for training during which the individual concerned was disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty, and any period of inactive duty training during which the individual concerned was disabled or died from an injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty.
  7. The spouse, widow or widower, minor child and, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Army, unmarried adult child of any of the persons listed above.
    1. The term “spouse” refers to a widow or widower of an eligible member, including the widow or widower of a member of the Armed Forces who was lost or buried at sea or officially determined to be permanently absent in a status of missing or missing in action. A surviving spouse who has remarried and whose remarriage is void, terminated by death, or dissolved by annulment or divorce by a court with basic authority to render such decrees regains eligibility for burial in Arlington National Cemetery unless it is determined that the decree of annulment or divorce was secured through fraud or collusion.
    2. An unmarried adult child may be interred in the same gravesite in which the parent has been or will be interred, provided that child was incapable of self-support up to the time of death because of physical or mental condition. At the time of death of an adult child, a request for interment will be submitted to the Executive Director, Army National Cemeteries Program, Arlington National Cemetery. The request must be accompanied by a notarized statement from an individual who has direct knowledge as to the marital status, degree of dependency of the deceased child, the name of that child's parent, and the military service upon which the burial is being requested. A certificate of a physician who has attended the decedent as to the nature and duration of the physical and/or mental disability must also accompany the request for interment.
  8. Widows or widowers of service members who are interred in Arlington National Cemetery as part of a group burial may be interred/inurned in the cemetery, but not in the same gravesite as the group burial.
  9. The surviving spouse, minor child, and, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Army, an unmarried adult dependent child of any person already buried in Arlington. (Army Regulation 290-5 defines an adult dependent child as an adult permanently incapable of self-support because of physical or mental disability incurred before age 21.)
  10. The parents of a minor child or unmarried adult dependent child whose remains, based on the eligibility of a parent, are already buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Army Regulation 290-5 defines an adult dependent child as an adult permanently incapable of self-support because of physical or mental disability incurred before age 21.)
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Eligibility for Inurnment in the Columbarium or Niche Wall

The Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery
View from inside the Columbarium.

Eligibility for inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery is verified at the time of need (at the time of death) and cannot be verified by the cemetery or accommodated before the time of need. However, in accordance with Title 32 Code of Federal Regulations Part 553, section 15a, the following individuals are eligible for inurnment (Columbarium or Niche Wall) at Arlington National Cemetery:

  1. Any member of the Armed Forces who dies on active duty.
  2. Any former member of the Armed Forces who served on active duty (other than for training) and whose last service terminated honorably.
  3. Any member of a Reserve component of the Armed Forces, and any member of the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard, whose death occurs under honorable conditions while he is on active duty for training or performing full-time service; performing authorized travel to or from that duty or service; or is on authorized inactive duty training including training performed as a member of the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard. Also included are those members whose deaths occur while hospitalized or undergoing treatment at the expense of the United States for injury or disease contracted or incurred under honorable conditions while on that duty or service or performing that travel or inactive duty training.
  4. Any member of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps of the Army, Navy, or Air Force whose death occurs under honorable conditions while attending an authorized training camp or on an authorized practice cruise, performing authorized travel to or from that camp or cruise, or hospitalized or undergoing treatment at the expense of the United States for injury or disease contracted or incurred under honorable conditions while attending that camp or cruise, performing that travel, or undergoing that hospitalization or treatment at the expense of the United States.
  5. Any former prisoner of war who, while a prisoner of war, served honorably in the active military, naval, or air service, whose last period of active military, naval, or air service terminated honorably and who died on or after November 30, 1993.
    1. The term “former prisoner of war” means a person who, while serving in the active military, naval, or air service, was forcibly detained or interned in line of duty—
      1. By an enemy government or its agents, or a hostile force, during a period of war; or
      2. By a foreign government or its agents, or a hostile force, under circumstances which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs finds to have been comparable to the circumstances under which persons have generally been forcibly detained or interned by enemy governments during periods of war.
    2. The term “active military, naval, or air service” includes active duty, any period of active duty for training during which the individual concerned was disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty, and any period of inactive duty training during which the individual concerned was disabled or died from an injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty.
      Fountain inside the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery
      Fountain inside the Columbarium.
  6. Any citizen of the United States who, during any war in which the United States has been or may hereafter be engaged, served in the Armed Forces of any government allied with the United States during that war, whose last active service terminated honorably by death or otherwise, and who was a citizen of the United States at the time of entry on such service and at the time of death.
  7. Commissioned officers, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (now National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) who die during or subsequent to the service specified in the following categories and whose last service terminated honorably:
    1. Assignment to areas of immediate military hazard.
    2. Served in the Philippine Islands on December 7, 1941.
    3. Transferred to the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy under certain statutes.
  8. Any commissioned officer of the United States Public Health Service who served on full-time duty on or after July 29, 1945, if the service falls within the meaning of active duty for training as defined in 38 U.S.C. 101(22) or inactive duty training as defined in 38 U.S.C. 101(23) and whose death resulted from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty. Also, any commissioned officer of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service who performed active service prior to July 29, 1945 in time of war; on detail for duty with the Armed Forces; or while the service was part of the military forces of the United States pursuant to Executive order of the President.
  9. Spouses, minor children, and dependent adult children of the persons listed above. (Army Regulation 290-5 defines an adult dependent child as an adult permanently incapable of self-support because of physical or mental disability incurred before age 21.)
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Burden of Proof in Establishing Eligibility

The primary next-of-kin or designated personal representative is responsible for providing the appropriate documentation to verify the veteran's eligibility for interment or inurnment. Arlington National Cemetery is required to have the last discharge from military service which reflects honorable service. The cemetery staff may offer assistance in verifying the veteran's eligibility. However, the veteran or their spouse must be deceased (time of need) prior to the cemetery staff assisting with the verification.

Documents that can be used for establishing eligibility include:

  • Department of Defense (DD) Form 214 (all branches starting in the 1950s)
  • War Department Adjutant General's Office (WD AGO) Form 53, 53-55 or 53-98 for Army
  • Navy Personnel (NAVPERS) Form 553 for Navy
  • Navy/Marine Corps (NAVMC) Form 553 (for the Marines during the 1940s; both front and back of the forms are needed).

A Record of Service provided by the National Personnel Records Center is also acceptable to establish eligibility. The preceding list represents a partial listing of forms used during the 1940s. Some of the preceding documents do not describe the character of service. A copy of the veteran's discharge certificate, which describes the character of service as honorable will meet the characterization of service requirement.

Verification by the cemetery staff will take additional time and it is recommended that the next-of-kin or designated personal representative make every effort to obtain requested eligibility documents. Veterans or their designated representative who desire copies of a veteran's military records should write to:

National Personnel Records Center
Attention: Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Boulevard
St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5100

Telephone: (314) 801-0800
Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
(Closed weekends & federal holidays)

E-mail: MPR.center@nara.gov

Status Check: mpr.status@nara.gov

Fax: (314) 801-9195

Requests may also be made online at the National Archives Veterans' Service Record page.

Active-Duty Deaths:
Any member of the Uniformed Services who dies while on active duty (other than for training) will generally have his/her affairs processed by a casualty assistance officer from his/her respective branch of service. An active duty statement from the commanding officer along with orders showing Title 10 Active Duty status or the Personnel Record Brief which shows Active Component will be required for verification of eligibility.

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Interment/Inurnment Costs

An in-ground burial at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery does not charge fees for an interment or inurnment at the cemetery. The only potential costs to the estate of the deceased are for private headstone monuments or vaults. The next-of-kin may elect to have a private headstone monument (depending on the availability of gravesites in sections of the cemetery where private headstone monuments are permitted) erected in lieu of using a government-provided headstone. Please note, the availability of gravesites in the older sections of the cemetery is limited. Additionally, the next-of-kin may elect to provide a private vault as an outside container other than the standard government provided grave liner.

Government grave liners are made of reinforced concrete that surrounds the casket. After the committal service, the casket is lowered into the government liner and the concrete lid is placed on top. The purpose of the government liner is to protect the grave from sinking. It is not designed to protect the casket from the elements. A government liner is provided at no cost to the family.

A burial vault is made of reinforced concrete or other materials such as steel or bronze. Burial vaults come with a variety of special linings and may be sold with a warranty. The purpose of the burial vault is to protect the casket for some period of time and prevent the grave from sinking. Burial vaults are sold by funeral homes and not provided free of charge by the cemetery. If a family elects to purchase a burial vault, then the cemetery will not provide the free government liner.

The overall purpose of both is to prevent ground sinkage as the casket naturally deteriorates over time. The outer burial container helps to prevent the grave from sinking but neither grave liners nor burial vaults are designed to prevent the eventual decomposition of human remains, or entirely prevent water, dirt, or other debris from penetrating into a casket.

All costs associated with preparation of the remains, casket or urn, and shipping of the remains to the Washington, D.C. area are at the expense of the estate, unless the deceased was on active duty with a branch of the Armed Forces. Please check with your local VA and Social Security Administration office to determine if any benefits are available from either or both agencies.

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