Thursday, June 13, 2024

Connect with us:

Military benefits for veteran funerals can be difficult to access


Smits Funeral Homes guides families through the process

DYER, Ind. (April 25, 2023) – “Some families just are not aware of the military benefits and options that may be available for the funeral services for a deceased veteran,” says Tim Smits, owner of Smits Funeral Homes. With decades of experience in serving veterans and their families, Smits has learned what questions to ask and what steps to take to ensure that veterans receive the honors they deserve — and to ensure that grieving families don’t have to navigate the system alone.

military benefits
A lot of families just don’t know what military benefits are available for the funeral of a deceased veteran,” says Tim Smits, owner of Smits Funeral Homes. (Photo provided)

A choice of military benefits

The Veterans Administration (VA) provides a variety of burial benefits to veterans and their spouses, but figuring out eligibility can be a tedious process. Smits has developed a broad network of contacts who are able to help families gather the documentation they need and then access the military benefits they are entitled to. In some cases, financial assistance is available. Other families choose military honors at a private funeral service. And for some, being buried in a VA national cemetery is the most fitting tribute. Staff at any of the Smits Funeral Homes locations are able to carefully guide families through those decisions.

Military burial: a well-kept secret

Smits Funeral Homes works particularly closely with Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, to make arrangements for a military burial when families choose that option. “It’s surprising what a well-kept secret that is,” says Tim Smits. There are 155 veterans cemeteries in the nation. Of those, 11 are in Illinois, and of those, only 5 have open burial space and 1 is open for cremations only. Located about 40 miles west of South Holland, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is the closest option for families who want their loved one to be laid to rest in a national cemetery.

Other military benefits available for veteran funerals include military markers and headstones, Presidential Memorial Certificates, and a United States flag to drape the casket or accompany the urn.

Finding the discharge papers

All military benefits are available only when families can present honorable discharge papers as evidence of service. For families who have lost those papers, Smits is often able to help retrieve copies from the government in time for the family to make appropriate decisions about funeral services and burial.

Serving those who served

“This is something I think we do really well,” says Tim. “Obviously we have such respect for our veterans, and we want to make sure they receive all the honors they have earned. But we also know how difficult it can be for families to access those military benefits — first because they aren’t aware of them, but also because those details are difficult to attend to during a time of grief. So we really consider it a special honor to serve veteran families this way.”

Smits Funeral Homes Ltd. has locations in South Holland and Steger, Illinois, as well as Dyer, Indiana:

  • Smits DeYoung-Vroegh Chapel
    649 E. 162nd St.
    South Holland, Illinois 60473
    708 333-7000
  • Steger Memorial Chapel
    3045 Chicago Rd
    Steger, IL 60475
    708 755-6100
  • Smits Funeral Home
    2121 Pleasant Springs Lane
    Dyer, IN 46311
    219 322-7300