A new rule within the Department of Veterans Affairs will allow veterans to reserve a funeral plot before it’s needed.

In early December, the VA introduced a rule change that allows veterans to handle their own plot application, as well as their spouses’, before they need it.

A process called pre-determination allows veterans to take care of the initial push for a place in one of the veteran cemeteries in the country. It doesn’t, however, take care of the actual plot reservation, which family will still have to apply for once the veteran or spouse dies.

Previously, families and veterans couldn’t apply for a plot until the veteran had died or “at the time of need.”

According to Program Support Assistant for the National Cemetery in New Bern Sandra Larochelle, proving eligibility can be the most important and frustrating process of planning a veteran’s funeral.

The new rule allowing veterans to prove their eligibility is a great move by the VA, she said, and will be positive for families when planning a funeral becomes a must.

“This is going to give the family peace of mind knowing there is a plan and that their family member is eligible,” Larochelle said. “It is so much easier for veterans to request their discharge or eligibility paperwork. A lot of the time families know they (veteran) served, but don’t know the time frame of when. This is going to be very helpful and create dialogue between families and veterans.”

Veterans, and their spouses, are eligible to be buried in one of 135 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots operated by the VA nationwide.

The new rule, while it won’t allow for exact plots to be reserved, will allow the veteran to make a request for a specific cemetery.

When the reservation becomes a need, the VA will determine where there is space for the burial, leaving one of the most time consuming processes being taken care of beforehand instead of during a time of grief and stress.

The VA will send a paper copy of eligibility to veterans as well as store an electronic copy of the eligibility and burial requests.

Although the only national veteran cemetery accepting new burials in North Carolina is in Salisbury near Raleigh, Larochelle said the change will only help streamline things on both sides.

“It is going to simplify things for not only the families, but funeral directors as well,” she said. “Usually they are the ones filing for eligibility for not only the burial location, but also for honors.

“This is just one step in the right direction before it is even needed”