Q: I heard the military is opening up on-line accessibility to utilize the military Post Exchange stores that serve active duty military personnel. What is that program all about and how do I sign up to use it?
A: Veterans can confirm eligibility to receive lifelong military exchange online shopping by logging onto VetVerify.org. This site will use information from DoD’s Defense Manpower Data Center’s (DMDC) records and the site will inform them of their ability to access this new benefit. If a veteran’s record has character of service data and that data meets the criteria for the online benefit, the veteran will be verified to shop. Beginning on Nov. 11, 2017, the veteran can log onto the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy Exchange websites at shopmyexchange.com, shopcgx.com, mymcx.com and mynavyexchange.com for tax-free shopping. If a veteran’s information is incomplete, VetVerify.org will provide guidance on next steps.
Q: My brother was a Vietnam veteran who passed away in 2008. He was estranged from his family and no one was aware of his death for several weeks. To my knowledge, no one received the burial flag to which he was entitled. It appears that no one who was around him at the time of his death received his burial flag. I contacted the funeral home that handled my brother’s funeral, and they referred me to the Post Office, which indicated that they give the flags out at the time of death. Can I still get a flag from the VA this late after the death?
A: Yes! The VA provides the flags to funeral directors. If a flag has not been provided in that veteran’s name, the VA will probably provide a flag with no problem. VA Form 21-2008 is the form to file a claim for the flag. The VA.gov website states that only one fag will be provided and the VA will not replace lost or damaged flags. VA Form 21-2008 can be obtained at the VA.gov website, or locally by contacting the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs representative, located at the National Guard Armory on South Main Street in Bloomington. The Veteran’s Assistance Commission can also access the VA Form 21-2008 at our office in downtown Bloomington.
Q: I will be traveling to my hometown several states away from where I have lived the last 35 years. There is a National Cemetery located near my old hometown. My grandfather, who served in WWI, and several of my uncles who served in WWII and a cousin who served during the Vietnam War are buried there. This National Cemetery is huge! How will I be able to find the burial sites of my relatives?
A: Each National Cemetery has records of who is buried there and where their gravesite is. Each cemetery usually has a computer terminal into which you will be able to type in the name of the person you are seeking. The system will give you a print out of the cemetery with the location of the gravesite clearly marked. However, the VA also has a very easy-to-use website to locate the gravesites at National Cemeteries in advance of your trip. Simply, input VA.gov in your computer search engine. Select U. S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The next screen will give you several options. Select the one marked Burials & Memorials by clicking on “get started”. There will be several options for you to choose from, and you should select “Gravesite Locations Online.” There will be a “fillable” form and when you complete the form and hit enter, the system will print out a brief summary about the person you selected and a map of where in the National Cemetery that person is buried. Both documents are printable. You will need the person’s last and first name, as well as, month and date of both birth and death.