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Merchant Marine service qualifies for VA benefits

Editor's note: This information was supplied by the Citrus County Veteran's Service Office. For more information call 527-5411.

On Jan. 19, 1998, the secretary of the Air Force declared certain Merchant Marine service as qualifying for veterans benefits. Merchant Marines, who served in active oceangoing service from Dec. 7, 1941, to Aug. 15, 1945, are considered to be veterans. Also eligible are Civil Service crews serving aboard U.S. Army Transport service and Naval Transport Service vessels in oceangoing service.

If you wish to be considered for VA benefits, you should apply for a discharge certificate (DD-214) by completing DD Form 2168 (Application For Discharge of Member or Survivor of Member of Group Certified To Have Performed Active Duty with the Armed Forces of the United States) and sending it to:

Commandant (GMVP-1/12 MMVS), United States Coast Guard, Washington, DC 20593-0001.

The discharge certificate issued by the Coast Guard will reflect the dates of all wartime voyages. The remark section will show inclusive dates of each voyage. Each voyage will be considered a separate period of active service in determining eligibility for benefits and services.

In general, Merchant Marine veterans who obtain discharge certificates, and their survivors, may be eligible for the same benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs as other World War II veterans.

It is important to note that section 402 of Public Law 105-368 "Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998" amended Title 46, United States Code, by adding chapter 112, which provides that the "qualified service" of certain Merchant Marines between Aug. 16, 1945, and Dec. 31, 1946, would be deemed active duty service for purposes of benefits eligibility under chapters 23 (Burial Benefits) and 24 (National Cemeteries and Memorials of Title 38, United States Code).

Depending on the type of Merchant Marine service, certification of "qualified service" must come from the Department of Transportation or the Department of Defense. Basic eligibility has thus been extended to covered Merchant Marines for the following benefits: burial flag, burial allowance payable to the state for the burial in certain state-owned cemeteries or cemetery sections, headstones and markers, internment in national cemeteries, markers in memorial areas of national cemeteries and markers in memorial areas of Arlington National Cemetery.

In general, benefits may be provided only for deaths occurring after Nov. 11, 1998. However, in the case of an initial burial or columbarium placement in a national cemetery after Nov. 11, 1998, benefits incident to burial and the provision of a headstone or marker are authorized regardless of the date of death.