November of each year holds special meaning for Canadian Veterans. It is the month in which formal tribute is paid to those persons who fought and died for their Country in World War I, War II and the Korean War. When veterans of these conflicts die, those who qualify are eligible for funeral and burial allowances administered by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the Last Post Fund (LPF).
As this is the November issue of the newspaper, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit an item, which I touched on in a previous article about Veterans and the funeral and burial allowances available to those that qualify.
By way of background, the Last Post Fund is a non-profit Corporation whose purpose is to ensure, where possible, that no eligible Canadian War Veteran of WW I, II and the Korean War is denied a dignified funeral and burial for lack of sufficient funds at the time of their death. It operates in cooperation with and is supported financially by Veterans Affairs Canada.
In accordance with the Veterans Burial Regulations, for eligibility to be considered on the basis of insufficient funds, an assessment of financial resources at the time of the Veteran’s death must be undertaken. The scope of the assessment will vary depending on whether the Veteran is single at death or is survived by a spouse and/or dependent children.
If the Veteran dies single the Veteran’s estate as a whole is taken into consideration with no exemptions.
If the Veteran is survived by a spouse and/or dependent children the Veteran’s estate, the assets of the surviving spouse and Canada Pension Plan death benefits must be taken into consideration. However, in calculating the value of the Veteran’s available estate and the assets of the surviving spouse the following assets are excluded:
The maximum asset an eligible Veteran may have has is $12,015.00. The exemption for each dependent child 18 and under is $700.00. The cost of the funeral, burial and grave marker is added to the basic estate exception of $12,015.00
Note if, after the funeral and burial services have been paid for through the LPF, it is found the value of the available Veteran’s estate and/or assets of the surviving spouse exceeded the financial eligibility criteria, the LPF will seek to be reimbursed in whole or in part.
For those who qualify the maximum funeral services grant available is $3600 plus HST for the services of one funeral home and $4100 plus HST when two funeral homes are involved.
With a casket burial in addition to professional services and provision of a solid hardwood or veneer casket the LPF will compensate Veteran’s families for other expenses, such as, local transportation of the remains for distances over 16 KM and, under certain conditions, non-local transportation, a single perpetual care grave with standard LPF marker, the opening and closing of the grave, a grave liner or vault where such are required by cemetery regulations, rental of lowering devices and grass matting and the provisions of an oversized and hermetically sealed casket, if warranted.
When cremation is chosen, the cost of the disposition of cremated remains will be limited to the cost of a casket burial of $3600 plus HST. This will include the cost of a cremation hardwood urn up to a maximum value of $350.00, the use of a rental casket, if viewing is requested, and provision of a cremation container along with cremation. Allowable additional services will include, where applicable, those noted above, such as, transportation, a single perpetual care grave with standard marker and the opening and closing of the grave.
In both cases the LPF will also pay the applicable taxes in addition to the grant and additional allowable expenses.
There are two types of services available, the LPF Standard Services and the LPF Assisted Service (after-the-fact).
LPF Standard Services may be applied for only at the time of death. When death occurs the next-of-kin or other responsible person should contact an LPF office as soon as possible in person or by phone. The purpose of this contact is to provide the basic information that will permit an Officer of the Fund to establish eligibility.
If the next-of-kin or other responsible person chooses to apply for LPF Standard Services an application form must be completed and signed by the applicant at the time of contact or, if contact is made by phone, an application form will be mailed to the applicant for completion and signature as soon as possible thereafter.
If the application for LPF Standard Services is approved, the LPF will enter into a contract with a funeral home of the family’s choice to provide funeral services to a pre-determined LPF standard.
LFP Assisted Services may be applied for at the time of death or up to one year after the time of death. However, regardless of when the application is made during this one-year period, there will be no final determination of eligibility until itemized invoices or receipts for funeral and burial services contracted or paid for have been presented to the LPF.
Implications associated with applying after-the-fact include:
Veterans currently receiving benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada may also qualify for a partial or full burial allowance. Qualifications in this case will again depend on both the financial and marital status of the Veteran as defined herein. For those who qualify, the maximum funeral services grant is the same as offered under the LPF.
For more information regarding burial grants available for Veterans you may contact the Newfoundland and Labrador Branch of the LPF in St. John’s (ph 579 4288), the local office of Veterans Affairs Canada (ph 772 4716) and/or a funeral director.
As a permanent memorial to men and women who served their country a “Field of Honour” is maintained by Veterans Affairs Canada ( VAC ) at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John’s. This is the only Field of Honour in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Established in the early ’80s, divided into two sections, old and new, there have been over 350 interments of military personnel or approximately 700 when including spouses. Each plot contains 2 graves. This is possible because each plot is excavated to “double depth” or to a depth 2 or 3 feet deeper than a traditional grave, in order to accommodate 2 caskets with outer containers or burial vaults placed on top of each other.
There is no distinction made between the rank or status of the veterans buried in the Field of Honour. Generals lie beside privates, highly decorated beside those who achieved no battle acclaim, the wealthy beside those who died penniless. A military style headstone (made from Barre Grey Granite), appropriately inscribed with the name of the veteran, and Veteran’s service details is placed on each grave.
Veterans wishing to be interred in the Field of Honour must first be deemed eligible by Veterans Affairs Canada. This service verification may be done by the Last Post Fund ( LPF ) the organization that delivers the Veterans Affairs Canada Funeral & Burial Program. At the time of need, a funeral director may request a plot in the Field of Honour on behalf of the family. The administrator of the cemetery will contact VAC/LPF to determine eligibility. Verbal confirmation from VAC/LPF is accepted by the cemetery.
The rules, regulations and costs of burial in the Field of Honour are set by the cemetery and are updated each year. The cemetery should be contacted for the most up to date pricing at 709-739-7152. The same cost is payable and the procedure is required regardless of whether the Veteran or his/her spouse dies first.
For those Veterans who are not eligible for financial assistance under the Veterans Affairs Canada Funeral & Burial Program, the Veteran’s family or estate will be required to make payment at the time of the first spouse’s death and an additional payment when the second spouse dies, for burial in the new section of the Field of Honour.
As all plots in the old section are occupied with the exception, in some cases, of the second spouse the only variance in the cost will be between a concrete vault and an outside wooded shell. The wooden shell is provided by the funeral home rather than VAC, the cost will vary.
For those Veterans who are not eligible for financial assistance under the Veterans Affairs Canada Funeral & Burial Program, their family is responsible for the arrangements and payment for their military-style gravestone. Grave marking for a Veteran’s spouse is the responsibility of the family and a flat granite gravestone (Width 20″ x Thickness 4″) on the gravesite is the preferred option for spousal commemoration.
All existing graves in the old section are occupied with burials at double depth. Outside
In the new section concrete burial vaults have been placed at double depth in all plots ready for occupancy. When death of the second spouse occurs, burial will take place at regular depth and a concrete vault will again be required.
Veterans’ families requiring assistance may apply to the Last Post Fund. An estate must meet service criteria as well as financial criteria (based on net assets; not income) to qualify for assistance, more information on this criteria is available at www.lastpostfund.ca or may be discussed with a Last Post Fund representative at 1-800-465-7113.
When approved for assistance (either at time of need through a funeral home or after the fact up to one year after date of death), funeral services may be paid up to a maximum of $7376, plus HST for the services at a funeral home including disbursements such as clergy, flowers, obituaries and receptions, etc. In addition to the funeral services rate: cremation, special preparation of the remains, a single grave, opening and closing of a grave as well as certain other burial expenses may be covered. For cases approved for funeral and burial assistance, a military-style grave marker may be requested as part of the benefit package-ordered by the Last Port Fund through their supplier. Note: The Last Post Fund also has an Unmarked Grave Program which assists with the placement of military gravestones for Veterans who have been deceased for 5 years or more and have no permanent grave marking on their gravesite. There is no financial criteria for this program an dan application may be initiated by calling the Last Post Fund at 1-800-465-7113.
When traditional funeral services are requested the LPF will pay up to a maximum of $3600, plus HST for the services of one funeral home and $4100, plus HST when two funeral homes are required. The LPF will also pay additional services such as non-local transportation, cremation, provision of rental casket and urn, special preparation of the remains, provision of an oversized or hermetically sealed casket, a single grave, opening and closing of the grave, lowering device, grass matting, rental or winter storage, a grave liner or vault and a LPF Standard Marker.
The LFP maintains its own military cemetery, the National Field of Honour, at Pointe-Claire, Quebec, near Montreal. The cost of burial in this Field of Honour is modest. Many veterans have prearranged their graves. Prearrangements may be made by applying to the LPF Quebec Branch, 685 Cathcart Street, Suite 921, Montreal, PQ H3M1M7 or telephoning (514) 866 2888.
For more information about the Field of Honour or funeral and burial benefits, you may contact the Last Post Fund at 1-800-465-7113.
“Comrades fold the flag”
With those words the six members Honour Guard carefully fold the flag into the symbolic tri-cornered shape and pass it to the seventh member of the detail. It is this flag, that moments earlier had draped her husband’s casket to honor the memory of his service to his country, which was being solemnly presented to her by a representative of the Honour Guard. As he steps back she holds the neatly folded flag tightly in her arms. It will be an honoured keepsake, which she will proudly display in a prominent location in her home.
The provision of this tribute is a way in which a community shows its deep gratitude to those who, in time of war and peace have faithfully defended their country. It is the final act of respect that can be provided to a veteran’s family.
The veteran’s tribute consists of three core elements; the provision of Honour guard, folding and presentation of the flag under whose colors the veteran served and the playing of “The Last Post”. The Honour Guard detail is generally made up of local veterans and Legion members representing the Branch with, which the deceased was affiliated. It consists of at least seven members all wearing navy blue jackets and grey dress pants. Each member of the contingent also displays his medals and wears a military styled hat or beret.
The Honour Guard, who is led by one of its members, attends the funeral service at the church or funeral home chapel, or as a Guard of Honour stationed at its entrance when the deceased enters or exits.
After the service the Honours detail follow in possession to the cemetery. When the celebrant completes the liturgical component of the gravesite committal service, the leader of the Honor Guard recites the veteran’s tribute, culminating with the playing of “The Last Post”.
The Last Post, the bugle call used at military funeral ceremonies since the late 1800’s, is played by a bugler, if available, or by electronic recording. The music is provided by the Honours detail.
After The Last Post has been played, the flag, which is draped on the casket is carefully folded by the remaining members of the Honour Guard into the symbolic triangular shape and then passed to its leader. With the folded flag held waist high the official representative of the Honors detail presents it to the appropriate member of the family.
Because Newfoundland was not part of Canada during the outbreak of World War II, but a colony of the British Empire, the flag of choice for many veterans is the British Union Jack. For those who served in the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Flag is used. Other veterans prefer to acknowledge the branch of the Armed Forces in which they served. For example, many Naval Veterans choose to have the White Ensign draped on their casket. In addition to the use of the flag, another symbolic prominently displayed at a veteran’s funeral is the “poppy”. Prior to the commencement of the service poppies are distributed by the funeral director and members of the Honour Guard to all family members and many of the attendees. Proudly displayed over their hearts the red poppy with the black center, symbolizes the sacrifices made for the peace and freedom we now enjoy. At graveside, after the presentation of the flag, veterans and then family and friends are invited to place their poppies on the casket prior to its lowering into its final resting place.
The veteran’s tribute is provided by local veteran’s service organization, such as the Canadian Legion or Naval Association at no cost to the veteran’s family. The funeral director will contact the appropriate service representative for the family’s area. Requests for funeral honours are based on the final interment site, not the funeral service location, if they are different. If there is no final disposition site, or the weather is not suitable, the ceremony may be held at the church or funeral home chapel.