Jim Alton’s December VA column: Be cautious of charities; funeral benefits for veterans updated

 Web editor’s note: Emmet County Veterans Affairs Director writes a monthly column about issues affecting veterans and their families. Below is his December 2016 column; to access past articles, click here.

VA national cemeteries now offering pre-need eligibility

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently  announced it now provides eligibility determinations for interment in a VA national cemetery prior to the time of need. Through the Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility Program, upon request, individuals can learn if they are eligible for burial or memorialization in a VA national cemetery.

“Interested individuals may submit VA Form 40-10007Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery, and supporting documentation, such as a DD Form 214, if readily available, to the VA National Cemetery Scheduling Office by: toll-free fax at 1-855-840-8299; email to [email protected]; or mail to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office, P.O. Box 510543, St. Louis, MO 63151,” according to the VA web site.

VA will review applications and provide written notice of its determination of eligibility. VA will save determinations and supporting documentation in an electronic information system to expedite burial arrangements at the time of need. Because laws and personal circumstances change, upon receipt of a burial request, VA will validate all pre-need determinations in accordance with the laws in effect at that time.

Did you know: The VA operates 135 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots in 40 states and Puerto Rico. More than 4 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries. 

What VA burials provide:

For veterans buried in private or other cemeteries, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service. In 2016, VA honored more than 345,000 veterans and their loved ones with memorial benefits in national, state, tribal and private cemeteries.

Eligible individuals are entitled to burial in any open VA national cemetery, opening/closing of the grave, a grave liner, perpetual care of the gravesite, and a government-furnished headstone or marker or niche cover, all at no cost to the family. Veterans are also eligible for a burial flag and may be eligible for a Presidential Memorial Certificate.
Information on VA burial benefits is available from local VA national cemetery offices, from the Internet at www.cem.va.gov, or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at (800) 827-1000. 

A note about charities and donations

As we all get diluted with appeals for money this time of year, it would do well for you to take a some precautions:  One go online to Charity Watch (www.charitywatch.org) and find out what percentage goes to a specific charity and how much the “staff” is receiving to run it. If you are unable to go online, you can call our office and we can assist you with “The good, the bad and the indifferent.” There are a lot of scams out there, unfortunately – especially this time of year. It’s worth the extra effort to make sure your dollars make a difference. Call us at (231) 348-1780 if we can help.

Assisted living, Hospice and spreading joy at the holidays

This time of year is especially tough on a lot of people who are in assisted living homes, Hospice (the Highland House, Petoskey, for example) and local citizens who are confined to their home for one reason or another. For a stranger to stop by with flowers or just to say hello can mean so much more than you may realize; it only takes a few minutes of your time but the rewards for both you and them can be tremendous. Please give some thought about “being a present” to someone this year, it may last much longer than that present under the tree!  (P.S. Smile and say hello to everyone, it’s good for them and everyone loves a smile!)

Recognizing the first line of defense

As we all are aware, the police across our nation have come under fire and some are being assaulted almost daily. Our police and firefighters are our first line of defense in a world that has become more uncertain every day. I would encourage you to write a note, make a phone call or thank one of these defenders when you can. As they leave home every day or night, life is uncertain, and they can use all the encouragement they can get.  Remember who you call when you have a serious problem.

Merry Christmas!

Yes, I said it, and Rick (my assistant) and I want to wish all of you a very happy one. A big “Thank you” to all of you who have supported this office this past year; it makes a big difference to us and a bigger difference to our veterans and their families. This office is here not only for our veterans, but their families and all of the citizens of Emmet County. If we can be of service to you in any way, please call us any time.  Semper Fi  

Jim Alton is the Director of the Veterans Affairs Department within Emmet County. Alton served in the United States Marine Corps (1955-62) and is retired from the Michigan State Police. Reach him or his assistant, Rick Wiertalla, at (231) 348-1780 or [email protected]


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Emmet County, Michigan
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