Veterans' Laws and Benefits
Burial in state veterans’ cemeteries
Massachusetts has state Veterans’ Memorial Cemeteries located in Agawam and in Winchendon. There is no fee for a veteran’s burial in a state veterans’ memorial cemetery. A nominal fee will be charged for the burial of spouses, widows/widowers, and qualified dependents.
Eligibility for veterans
With the exception of a residency requirement, the Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemeteries follow the military eligibility requirements set forth by the National Cemetery Administration.
- The veteran was discharged or released from active duty service under honorable conditions,* OR
- The veteran served at least 20 years in the National Guard or United States Reserve and is in receipt of a military pension or has documentation verifying s/he will receive retirement pay at age 60, in accordance with Title 10, Chapter 1223, of the United States Code OR
- Any member of the armed forces of the United States who dies on active duty and whose home of record is Massachusetts.
* With certain exceptions, service beginning after September 7, 1980, as an enlisted person, and service after October 16, 1981, as an officer, must be for a minimum of 24 months –OR– the full period for which the person was called to active duty (examples include those serving less than 24 months in the Gulf War or Reservists who were federalized by Presidential Recall).
- The veteran’s home of record on his/her DD Form 214 or other discharge form indicates that s/he was a resident of Massachusetts at the time s/he entered into active military service OR,
- The veteran resided in a state other than Massachusetts when s/he entered military service and resided in Massachusetts at least one day after discharge from active duty OR,
- The veteran was a resident of Massachusetts at the time of his/her death.
Those not eligible for burial
- A former spouse of an eligible individual whose marriage to that individual has been terminated by annulment or divorce, if not otherwise eligible.
- Those excluded from eligibility according to Title 38, United States Code, Section 2411 and other applicable federal laws which prohibit burial in a national or state cemetery of anyone convicted of a federal or state capital crime and sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
- Those who served only on active duty for training.
- Those whose only separation from the armed forces was under dishonorable conditions or whose character of service results in a bar to veterans’ benefits.
Eligibility for family of veterans
- The spouses, widows, and widowers of veterans are eligible for burial in the state veteran’s cemeteries if they were legally married at the time of death. The spouse or surviving spouse of an eligible veteran is eligible for interment even if that veteran is not buried or memorialized in a state veterans’ cemetery. In addition, the spouse or surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces of the United States whose remains are unavailable for burial is also eligible for burial.
- The surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who had a subsequent remarriage to a non-veteran and whose death occurred on or after January 1, 2000, is eligible for burial in a state veterans’ cemetery based on his or her marriage to the eligible veteran.
- For purposes of burial in a state veterans’ cemetery, the minor child of an eligible veteran must be unmarried and:
(a) under 21 years of age; or,
(b) under 24 years of age and pursuing a full-time course of instruction at an approved educational institution.
- For purposes of burial in a state veterans’ cemetery, the unmarried child of an eligible veteran is one of any age but permanently physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support before reaching 21 years of age, or before reaching 24 years of age if pursuing a full-time course of education at an approved educational institution. Proper supporting documentation must be provided.
How to apply
To simplify the process for the veteran’s next-of-kin, the following documents should be set aside to be available at the time of need:
- An application by either the veteran or next-of-kin
- All discharge papers
- Birth certificate
- Proof of residency (required if discharge papers do not show “home of record” as a Massachusetts resident.)
At the time of need, these documents should be forwarded to one of the Massachusetts Veterans’ Cemeteries for approval (see addresses below.)
Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery at Agawam
1390 Main Street
Agawam, MA 01001
Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery at Winchendon
111 Glenallen Street
Winchendon, MA 01475
Burial in national veterans’ cemeteries
The Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration maintains 130 national cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto Rico) as well as 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites. The Massachusetts national cemetery is located in Bourne.
VA burial benefits include a gravesite in a national cemetery, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual grave, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains.
Eligibility and how to apply
For eligibility criteria or application, visit the National Cemetery Administration website at www.cem.va.gov or call 800-827-1000 to talk to a VA Veterans Benefits Coordinator.
Massachusetts National Cemetery
Bourne, MA 02532
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
National Cemetery Administration
Military honors at funeral
To arrange for funeral honors, contact your local funeral home. Direct access via phone and/or fax number is necessary for people who are doing the arrangements without the benefit of a funeral director. Contact the branch of service directly.
Air Force 781-377-4850; Fax: 781-377-3153
Army 774-286-1702; Fax: 508-233-6781
Coast Guard 617-990-6249; Fax: 617-223-3490
Marine Corps 866-826-3628; Fax: 703-784-9827
Navy 860-694-3475; Fax: 860-694-3699