Legislation Would Provide Headstones for Veterans’ Unmarked Graves

The “Honor Those Who Served Act of 2014” would enable veterans service agencies, military researchers, historians or genealogists to request a free headstone or marker from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for a veteran’s grave.

Until 2012 the VA provided headstones for unmarked veterans’ graves based on documentation of that vet’s identity and service provided by these groups or individuals. That policy was then changed, limiting headstone requests to a veteran’s next-of-kin or authorized family representative – a difficult requirement when dealing with graves dating back 100 years or more, and unknown family descendants. (The policy does not apply to replacement of worn, illegible or damaged markers.)

The proposed new legislation will change that policy again, making it possible for non-relatives to obtain a headstone for a documented veteran.

You can read more in an article by Brian Albrecht in The Plain Dealer at http://goo.gl/dPkRCn.


The struggle by local cemeteries, veterans organizations, historical societies and others to get the VA to rescind its recently adopted policy change and stop placing undue restrictions on the provision of grave markers for veterans has been going on for over a year.


I urge the entire genealogical community to support the efforts of these organizations. In one NY cemetery alone it is estimated that hundreds of Civil War veterans currently lie in unmarked graves. In the past, when historical researchers uncovered records proving the military service of one of these veterans, the cemetery was able to arrange with the VA for the grave to be marked, but no more.


Apart from the obvious difficulty in finding the next of kin for someone who died more than 150 years ago, this change in VA policy has made it totally impossible to obtain grave markers for veterans who are known to have died without leaving heirs, since even the executor or administrator of their estate (assuming there was any estate left to administer) would be long dead by now.


David Paul Davenport August 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I hope this legislation is approved. I submitted applications for three Civil War veterans buried in Fresno’s Mountain View Cemetery in 2012 and these were rejected as per the new policy. Sadly, none of the three have living descendants, so unless this legislation is approved these men will continue to rest in unmarked graves.


Definitely need this new ruling. I have found several veterans in our local area that need stones, too and was very surprised we couldn’t get the stones even with careful documentation.


Diane Eaton Hacker August 10, 2014 at 2:09 pm

My great great grandfather rests in an unmarked grave in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He was an Ohio native. I have been trying to place a headstone on his grave for several years now, the only problem is that I cannot afford the $200 the cemetery quoted me to place the headstone. Does the veterans program cover the cost of placing the headstone also?


    David Paul Davenport August 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Diane: It saddens me to report that the VA does not pay to have the headstone “set” at a cemetery. Since the manager of your cemetery in Milwaukee is “unfriendly” (unlike mine in Fresno who set two markers I obtained in 2011 at no cost to me) have you considered asking a Veteran’s organization in Milwaukee to cover this cost?


    Diane Eaton Hacker August 11, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    I thought about this also, my husband belongs to the American Legion. Thank you for the thought. I will check into this. Thank You!


Lynna Kay Shuffield August 11, 2014 at 11:13 am

In Galveston County, Texas, a local historian filed a lawsuit and the court ruled in her favor that the VA had to provide markers for the graves of two veterans … They have yet to comply with that court order … I am told they do not think a County Court has any authority of a Federal Agency and therefore they are ignoring the Order …


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