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)
Status Check: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: (314) 801-9195
Requests may also be made online at the National Archives Veterans' Service Record page.
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.
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.