If your family is anything like mine, the holiday season is a time of gatherings. Usually, there’s a heck of a lot of food and fun, but also some serious discussions about what’s happening with everyone and our plans. Last year, we tackled the implications of Alzheimer’s and the year before that, my son shared his decision to join the Army with the extended family. Good or bad, exciting or frightening, at our house the holidays provide an opportunity to dive into some deep issues.
As a financial planner, I think that’s a good thing. Discussions (and accompanying action!) about wishes, wills, powers of attorney, care plans and the like can all help create clarity and provide peace of mind across generations.
Speaking of peace of mind, in December of 2016, (it may have flown quietly under your radar during last year’s holiday season), the VA’s National Cemetery Administration announced a new Pre-Need Eligibility Determination Program. Whether you’re 24 or 74, this could be just what you need to do to make things easy on your family when you pass away. I remember when my Dad died we had to scrounge through his records to find a DD 214 and then make numerous phone calls, send faxes and do a lot of grunt work that this program has the potential to eliminate for those who take advantage of it. Even if it’s not a fun or exciting topic, signing up is a great example of doing the legwork necessary to take care of your family.
Remember, VA burial benefits include burial in any open VA national cemetery (there are 135 national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico), a grave liner, perpetual care of the gravesite, a headstone, a burial flag and a Presidential Memorial certificate. In addition to peace of mind of getting all the details ironed out to smooth the process during a difficult time, all of that can translate into significant financial savings for your family.
The eligibility requirements are outlined at www.cem.va.gov, but include being discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. After your death, your family will need to contact the VA’s National Cemetery scheduling office to request burial benefits. I’ve submitted my application and expect to receive it in 60-90 days.
I’ll have a nice, clean letter and instructions ready for my wife and kids to bust out in —I hope— about 50 years when it’s my time.