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Whether you’re planning a funeral for a loved one who was a veteran or planning ahead for your own funeral, it’s important to learn about the burial benefits available to eligible veterans. One benefit that many veterans qualify for is a government-issued headstone, grave marker, or niche marker.

Permanent memorials, like headstones and markers, play an essential role in the grieving process and give loved ones a place to remember and honor the deceased. Depending on the level of personalization and the size of the memorial, the costs of a headstone can add up, which makes this veteran benefit worth exploring.

Veterans cemetery with government-issued headstone

But who is eligible for a headstone, and what types of headstones and markers does the government provide? Let’s look at the basics of veteran headstones!

Who is Eligible?

To be eligible for a government-issued headstone or marker, veterans or active-duty service members must meet specific requirements. Veterans or service members who did not receive a dishonorable discharge or who died on active duty may be eligible to receive a government-issued headstone if they either died on or after November 1, 1990 or are buried in an unmarked grave. National Guard members and Reservists may also be eligible but have different requirements.

Close up view of a veteran's arm in uniform with American flag badge and flag in the background

The government can provide memorial headstones or markers for veterans or active-duty service members “whose remains are not recovered or identified, are buried at sea, donated to science or whose cremated remains have been scattered” (National Cemetery Administration). Additionally, a veteran’s spouse or dependent children may be eligible for a government-issued headstone or marker.

If a veteran, active duty service member, or military spouse was buried in a private cemetery and already has a privately purchased headstone, the VA may provide a medallion. However, veterans must meet specific requirements, and a local cemetery official may need to approve the addition of a medallion.

A veteran does not need to be buried in a veterans’ cemetery to be eligible for a government-issued headstone or marker. Find the complete list of eligibility requirements on the VA’s website here.

Types of Headstones and Markers

Folded American flag on a table

The VA offers a variety of headstones, grave markers, and medallions for eligible veterans and active-duty service members. If you choose one of these government-issued options, remember that there are specific guidelines about cleaning government-furnished headstones and markers. Also, inscriptions and personalization options are more limited (see Inscriptions section below).

Additionally, check with your chosen cemetery to see if they have specific requirements for headstones and markers before submitting your request. If your chosen cemetery is a veterans cemetery, they may also place the order on your behalf.

Upright Granite or Marble Headstone

Often used at national veterans cemeteries, upright government-issued headstones are 13″ wide and 4″ thick. In private cemeteries, lithichrome, a type of stone paint, may be used to darken the lettering on the headstone. However, national cemeteries typically do not use lithichrome so the headstones look consistent as they age and weather.

Flat Granite or Marble Grave Marker

These stone grave markers weigh about 130 pounds and are 24″ x 12″. The government typically doesn’t use lithichrome on these markers, and the marker’s color may vary depending on the type of stone chosen.

Flat Bronze Grave Marker

Much like the granite and marble grave markers, the bronze grave marker measures 24″ x 12″. A base for the marker isn’t included, but bolts, nuts, and washers will be provided.

Bronze Niche Marker

For those who choose cremation and display their urn in a niche, the VA may provide a bronze niche marker. The niche marker will be 8.5″ x 5.5″, and mounting bolts and washers are supplied.


As mentioned above, the VA also offers medallions for eligible veterans with a privately-purchased headstone. There are two types of medallions: bronze or Medal of Honor. Each option has different size options to choose from and can be affixed to a headstone.

Read more details about government-issued headstones, markers, and medallions on this page.

Inscriptions on Government-Issued Headstones and Markers

government-issued headstone with flowers

When requesting a government-issued headstone or marker, remember that any inscriptions must adhere to the VA’s guidelines. The mandatory inscription will include the veteran’s legal name, years of birth and death, and branch of service. If the veteran is buried in a state or national veterans cemetery, the headstone will have the section and grave number.

Other than those mandatory items, you can add other inscriptions, like nicknames, unit designations, highest rank attained, awards, or information about war service. You can also request specific “emblems of belief.” However, these additions must be provided by the veteran’s next of kin or an authorized representative and approved by the VA. For more details on accepted inscriptions and how to request them, please visit the National Cemetery Administration Inscriptions page.

As you consider your options for a veteran’s headstone, monument, or marker, think about what’s most important to you. There are many government-issued choices, but you can always explore other memorial options if you would rather have something unique and highly personalized.

For other questions about government-issued headstones and markers, please see the VA’s FAQ page.

Learn More About Veterans’ Burial Benefits

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