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RI Veterans: Did you know? 08.02.24 (Burial options, events, DEM, resources) – John A. Cianci

by John A. Cianci, contributing writer on veterans issues

Burial Options for Rhode Island Veterans at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery or in a VA National Cemetery

Last week in the veterans’ column by Frank Lennon in the Providence Journal, they highlighted a deceased Rhode Island Air National Guard soldier, Master Sgt. Ken Lewis’s story of being buried in a pauper’s grave for several years. Read the story HERE.

Frank detailed how a veteran of over 25 years died, was left unclaimed at the morgue, and ended up buried in the pauper’s grave, nameless, marked only by a number, although the veteran was eligible for FREE burial at the RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery and more than likely, eligible for free burial at a federal veteran cemetery. 

If not for the efforts of  Lewis’ friends and veterans he served with, more than likely he would remain in the pauper’s gravesite, not in his final resting spot, where he was exhumed and relocated to in the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter, Rhode Island. 

Frank’s message to all his veteran brothers and sister:

“Decide what your funeral arrangements should be. Put them in your will, or at the very least write them down and give them to a trusted family member or friend. None of us should end up like Ken Lewis.”

This week’s article will cover veterans options for burial at state and federal veterans cemeteries.  

Question 1

Where does the veteran want to be buried? And,if in a state or VA National cemetery, start the process and pre-register.

VETTIP – If you decide to be buried at the RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery and your spouse precedes you, she can be buried in your site. This also applies at a VA National cemetery.

Let’s start with veterans that want to be buried at the Rhode island Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter, RI.

Step 1. You will need a copy of your DD214

If you don’t have your DD214, you can request it  from the National Archives – here:

VETTIP – If going online to complete the request, I recommend you contact one of the congressional delegates for Rhode Island.  Ask for the veteran liaison. That person will assist you in obtaining the discharge papers.

Contacts are:

Senator Jack Reed – (401) 943-3100

Senator Whitehouse – (401) 453-5294

US Representative Gabe Amo – (401) 729-5600

US Representative Seth Magazine – (401)-244-1201

Step 2.  ITS FREE TO APPLY AND BE BURIED at the RI Memorial Veteran Cemetery, for eligible veterans. APPLY immediately once you have your DD214, even if your not 100% sure. While living, you can always change your mind.

Eligibility requirements for burial at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery are as follows:

1.   Honorable Service AND

2.   Entry into the service from Rhode Island OR two consecutive years Rhode Island residency prior to death AND

3.   Two or more consecutive years of active duty during peacetime OR twenty years of National Guard or Reserve time OR active duty during wartime for which a Campaign or Expeditionary Medal was awarded.

VETTIP – You might not be eligible for RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery, however, you could be eligible for a VA National Cemetery (see VA National Cemetery below)

Application can be done online,

Need a copy of an application? Contact the office at the cemetery and ask the office to mail you a copy of the application. The office can be reached Monday thru Friday, 8:30am to 4:00pm, (401) 268-3088.

Step 4. After you apply, you will get a confirmation letter of your eligibility. Suggest you make a few copies, attach copies of your DD214 to it, and maybe other documents of your wishes upon you death.

Step 5. Keep living and enjoying life.

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ken Lewis died on Dec. 11, 2020. Although for several years he remained in a pauper’s grave, MSGT Ken Lewis now rests where he belongs, the Rhode Island Memorial Veterans Cemetery. Moreover, because of Lewis’s  friends and veterans, he received the respect he earned service and second burial with military honors. RIP Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Lewis.

Burial At VA National Cemetery 

In Rhode Island, there is no VA National Cemetery. Moreover, the closest VA National Cemetery is most likely in Bourne , MA. An eligible veteran can choose any of the VA National Cemeteries located in the US to be buried. Veterans and those eligible can fill out an application in advance. 

Step 1. Who is eligible? Find out if you’re eligible. One of these must describe you:

§  A Veteran who did not receive a dishonorable discharge when you separated from the military, or

§  The spouse or dependent child of a service member or Veteran, even if the service member or Veteran has already passed away, or

§  In some cases, the adult dependent child of a service member or Veteran (if you aren’t married)

The VA will base a decision of whether or not you qualify for burial in a VA national cemetery on your service history—or the service history of the Veteran or service member who’s sponsoring your application for burial as a spouse, surviving spouse, or unmarried adult child.

Note: If a service member dies on active duty, they’re eligible for burial without a pre-need decision letter.

More details on eligibility for VA National Cemetery – go HERE.

Eligibility for burial in a VA National Cemetery

Who’s eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery? Veterans, service members, spouses, and dependents may be eligible for burial in a VA National Cemetery, as well as other benefits, if they meet one of these requirements.

One of these must be true:

The person qualifying for burial benefits is a Veteran who didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge, or

The person qualifying for burial benefits is a service member who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty for training, or

The person qualifying for burial benefits is the spouse or surviving spouse of a Veteran (even if they remarried after the Veteran’s death), or

The person qualifying for burial benefits is the minor child of a Veteran (even if the Veteran died first) or, in some cases, the unmarried adult dependent child of a Veteran.

Eligibility information for specific groups

U.S. citizens who served in the Armed Forces of any government allied with the United States during a war

A U.S. citizen who served in the Armed Forces of a U.S. ally during wartime may be eligible if they meet both of these requirements.

Both of these must be true:

The service member ended their last active service honorably by death or otherwise, and

The service member was a U.S. citizen at the time they entered their last active service and at the time of their death

Members of Reserve components or the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps – National Guard and Reserve members

A National Guard or Reserve member may be eligible if they meet any of these requirements.

At least one of these must be true:

  • The National Guard or Reserve member met their legal minimum active-duty service requirements, was called up to active duty and served their full term of service, and didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge, or
  • The National Guard or Reserve member was entitled to retirement pay at their time of death, or would have been entitled to retirement pay if they weren’t under 60 years of age at the time of death, or
  • The National Guard or Reserve member died while hospitalized or getting treatment at the expense of the U.S. for an injury or illness that occurred while they were performing active-duty services for training or inactive-duty training under honorable conditions, or
  • The National Guard or Reserve member became disabled or died from a disease or injury caused—or made worse—by their service during a period of active duty for training, or
  • The National Guard or Reserve member became disabled or died from an injury or certain cardiovascular disorders caused—or made worse—by their service during a period of inactive-duty training

Step 2 Choose the VA National Cemetery where you’d prefer to be buried.

Find a VA National Cemetery

Please note:

§  This application is only for VA national cemeteries. If you’d like to be buried in a state or tribal Veterans cemetery, contact that specific cemetery ahead of time to find out about their pre-need program. Some state Veterans cemeteries require that you live in that state or have other rules around eligibility. You can apply for a pre-need determination of eligibility from VA and also from a state or tribal Veterans cemetery. Find a state Veterans cemetery

§  This application doesn’t apply to Arlington National Cemetery or the United States Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery. If you’d like to be buried in either of these Department of the Army cemeteries, please call 877-907-8585 (TTY: 711). We’re here Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET.

§  Getting a pre-need determination of eligibility doesn’t guarantee you’ll be buried in a specific VA national cemetery. We don’t take reservations at any VA national cemetery. However, we ask where you prefer to be buried so we can try to help fulfill your final wishes. 

Step 3 Gather the supporting documents and information you’ll need to fill out the application. See the list below. If you don’t have everything on the list, you can still apply and we’ll help by finding the supporting documents we need. Just keep in mind that the more information you can give us when you apply, the faster we can review your application and give you a decision. 

To apply, you’ll need your (or your sponsor’s):

·      Social Security number

·      Date and place of birth

·      Military status and service history (like service dates, discharge character, and rank—commonly found on the DD214 or other separation documents)

·      Discharge papers (DD214 or other separation documents) – Note: If you don’t have discharge papers, find out how to request the DD214.

If you’re applying as a spouse, surviving spouse, or unmarried adult child, you’ll also need your personal information, including your Social Security number.

If you’re applying for an unmarried adult child of a Veteran or service member, you’ll also need to provide supporting documents with information about the child’s disability. The Veteran or guardian of the child should also ask the child’s current doctor to verify the documents. These documents should include all of the following information:

·      The date of the disability’s onset, and

·      A description of the disability, mental or physical, and

·      A description of how dependent the disabled child is on the Veteran, and

·      The marital status of the child

Step 4. Be sure to fill out an application for each person requesting a pre-need eligibility determination. If both you and your spouse are applying, you’ll each need to fill out your own application.

How do I apply? You can apply online right now. Apply for pre-need eligibility

Options To Apply:

1.   By mail

Fill out an Application for Pre-need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery (VA Form 40-10007). Get VA Form 40-10007 to download

The person applying for a pre-need determination must sign the form. If that person is under 18 years old, mentally unable to make decisions for themselves (sometimes called mentally incompetent), or physically unable to sign the form, a spouse, parent, or court-appointed representative may sign the form.

If you’re signing the form on behalf of someone else, you’ll need to:

  • Select box 33B on the form and provide your name, address, phone number, and email address in blocks 34 through 37
  • Provide supporting documents that show why the person applying can’t sign
  • Provide supporting documents that show your relationship to the person applying

Send your completed application (with copies of your supporting documents) to:

NCA FP Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 5237
Janesville, WI 53547

Don’t send us the originals of your DD214 and other supporting documents since we can’t return them. Send copies only.

2.   By fax

You can fax your application to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 855-840-8299.

In conclusion, Veterans, you can ensure your final wishes are fulfilled by being proactive while your are living. Take the necessary steps, let your loved ones know your wishes. 

If burial is at RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery, fill out the necessary application and once you receive confirmation of your eligibility , file it with your records and I suggest you provide a copy to the funeral home, along with a copy of your DD214.



Monday, February 19, 2024 – FREE LUNCHEON for all veterans and their guest at VFW 5392, 134 Shove Street, Tiverton RI, from 1130 am to 1300pm. The luncheon will be traditional Portuguese food cooked by guest combat veteran chefs Mike Bozzi.

March 16, 2024 – Tea for RI Women Veterans, Rhode Island Veterans Home, 480 Metacom Ave, Bristol RI, 1:00 PM – 3:30PM. Come join fellow Rhode Island Women Veterans for an afternoon of community and conversation. Meet other local women veterans, share experiences, inspire and encourage each other. Sponsored by Military Women Across the Nation. 


State of Rhode Island Benefits for Veterans Receiving 100% VA Disability

Free Rhode Island Vehicle Registration and Driver’s License for Disabled Veterans: Wartime Veterans with serious disabilities may be exempt from Rhode Island vehicle registration and driver’s license fees.

Who is eligible Free Rhode Island Vehicle Registration and Driver’s License for Disabled Veterans? To be eligible Veterans must have received an honorable discharge for service in the U.S. Armed Forces during a wartime period and meet one of the following requirements:

  • Lost or lost the use, one or both of their arms, hands, feet, or legs
  • Received a grant from the VA for a specially adapted vehicle
  • Received a VA combined, service-connected disability rating of 100%
  • Rated “individually unemployable” due to a service-connected disability

Free Rhode Island Disabled Veteran License Plate: The Rhode Island Disabled Veteran License plate is available to Veterans who have a 100% disability rating from the VA. These plates may be used on private or commercial vehicles weighing 6,300 lbs. or less. There is no initial or renewal fees for this license plate. Only one set of plates is authorized. Plates may be transferred to the un-remarried Surviving Spouse.

Veterans are required to provide a copy of their discharge papers (DD214 or other official proof of military service) and must request official documentation from the Providence VA Regional Benefits Office indicating they have a 100% disability rating before they apply.

Providence VA Regional Benefits Office
380 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: 800-827-1000


Free Golf,  Goddard Park Golf Course Fee Exemption for Totally Disabled Veterans: Rhode Island resident Veterans who have a 100% permanent and total, service-connected disability rating from the VA are exempt from paying any fees to play golf at the Goddard Park Golf Course. For more information call the Clubhouse at Goddard Memorial State Park from April 1st through the 3rd Saturday in November at 401-884-9834 or year-round at Division Headquarters at 401-667-6200.

Free Rhode Island Hunting and Fishing Licenses for 100% Disabled Veterans: A Veteran who has a 100% disability rating from the VA is eligible for free Rhode Island hunting and fishing licenses.

No cost licenses are available if you are:

·       over 65 AND a Rhode Island resident

·       a veteran with 100% disability status from the Department of Veterans Affairs

·       a person with 100% total disability status from the Social Security Administration

To apply in person at DEM, please bring a photo ID and an ORIGINAL DOCUMENT OF THE FINAL DECISION(S). Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. (directions)

To apply by mail, please complete an application and mail the application and a copy of your photo ID and the ORIGINAL DOCUMENT OF THE FINAL DECISION(S). Please allow two weeks for processing.

The address to obtain your license in person or by mail is:
DEM Licensing Office
235 Promenade Street, Room 360
Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-3576

To purchase online, you will be required to certify that you have an ORIGINAL DOCUMENT OF THE FINAL DECISION(S). You will also be required to enter the date the decision expires. The Department will audit compliance with the certification and may, at any time, request a copy of the current DOCUMENT OF THE FINAL DECISION(S). Failure to submit the documentation by the date requested may result in the suspension of your fishing and hunting license. Also, Rhode Island General Law 11-18-1 prohibits giving false documents to an agent, employee, or public official. The penalty is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment up to one year.

Rhode Island Hunting and Fishing Benefits for Service Members and Veterans: 

Rhode Island offers several hunting and fishing benefits to Service members and Veterans. A short description of each is listed below. Applicants are required to show documentation proving eligibility when they apply:

· Active-Duty Service members – Military ID

· Veterans – DD214

· Disabled Veterans – VA Disability Certification Letter

Applicants can apply online at Rhode Island Outdoors, in person at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Office of Boating Registration and Licenses in Providence (Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.), at an Authorized In-Person Sales Agent, or they can mail applications to:

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Room 360
Providence, RI 02908
Phone: 401-222-3576


Free Rhode Island State Park Passes for 100% Disabled Veterans: 

Rhode Island offers the State Park Disability Pass for use at any state-owned recreational facility to disabled Veterans who have a 100% service-connected disability rating from the VA. The State Park Disability Pass authorizes free admission and parking but does not exempt the following:

· Licensing fees

· Camping fees

· Picnic table fees

· Specialized facility use fees

· Use of equestrian areas

· Performing art centers

· Game fields fees

· Mule shed fees

If the disabled Veteran cannot drive, the vehicle transporting the Veteran will not be charged. Veterans must apply in person at the Rhode Island State Parks and Recreation Headquarters and are required to show official documentation (dated within the past year) from the VA that states they have a 100% service-connected disability.

Rhode Island State Parks and Recreation Headquarters
1100 Tower Hill Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Phone: 401-667-6200
Email: [email protected]


RESOURCES  & ongoing groups 

Below are all the groups the Providence Vet Center is currently offering.  As this list changes, I will provide updates. Please send me any questions that you may have, thank you for your time! 

***All Vet Center Groups require that the Veteran be enrolled with the Vet Center prior to attending. To check eligibility or for questions, please contact the Vet Center at (401) 739-0167 or reach out to our Veteran Outreach Program Specialist (VOPS) via email at [email protected]*** 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Group (PTSD) – 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. (Group is only active September through May) 

Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and Vietnam Veterans PTSD Group – 2nd and 4th  Wednesday of the month from 9:30 – 11:00 a.m. 

Vietnam Veteran PTSD Group – 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 10:30 – 12:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. 

Art Expression Group – Every Thursday from 9:00 – 12:00 p.m. 

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/Operation New Dawn (OND) Group – Every Wednesday from 11:00 – 12:00 p.m. 

Stress Management – Every Thursday from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. 

Low Impact Walking  Group – Every Tuesday from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. 

Guitar 4 Veterans – Every Wednesday from 7:00-8:30 p.m. 

Monday Mindfulness Group – Every Monday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. 

Yoga Group – Every Friday from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. 

Moral Injury Group – Every Friday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. 

Modern Warrior Support Group – 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 2:30 – 4:00 pm. 


Discounts for Veterans 


No Problem Plumbing and Heating LLC 15% military discount, ask for Ron Gaynor, (401) 568-6666. Veterans must provide proof of eligibility with a VA Card, VA ID Card, or RI State license with veteran identification. 


Applebee’s – Military Discount. With more than 2,000 locations, Applebee’s is a family grill restaurant. Applebee’s gives 10% off for active duty and veteran. Last verified 07/31/2022. 

Denny’s – Hartford Ave, Johnston offers 10% discount for veterans and active duty. Denny’s is a table service diner-style restaurant chain. Last verified 07/31/2022. 

Outback Steakhouse – 10% Discount to active and veterans. Last verified 07/28/2021 

99 Restaurant & Pub – The 99 Restaurant & Pub offers a 10% military discount to members of Veterans Advantage. Available at select locations only. Bring valid military ID 


Advance Auto Parts – 10% for Active Duty, Veterans, and families. Last verified 07/28/2021 

Bass Pro Shops – Offers a 5% discount to active-duty military, reservists, and National Guard. Sign up and verify your status online or bring your military ID when you shop at your nearest Bass Pro store (source). 

BJs Wholesale – Reduced membership fee. BJ’s offers all military personnel over 25% off their Membership. Last verified 07/28/2021 

Lowes – Enroll in the Lowe’s Military Discount Program to activate your 10% discount – “Our way of saying Thank You” to our active duty, retired and military veterans and their spouses with a 10% discount on eligible items. Verification of your military status is fast and easy through our partner

GameStop – is offering a 10% in-store military discount on all pre-owned products, collectibles, and select new products. Available to current and former military members who bring any valid proof of service or when they verify through 

Home Depot – Offers a 10% off military discount on regularly priced merchandise for in-store purchases for active duty, retired military, and reservists at participating locations. Customers are required to show a valid government-issued military ID card to redeem this offer. 

Kohls – 15% discount offers for active military, veterans, retirees, and their immediate family members a 15% discount on purchases made on Mondays, in store only. In order to receive the military discount, eligible customers must present proper identification along with any tender type. 

Jiffy Lube – HONORING VETERANS ALL DAY EVERY DAY! – We didn’t want to wait for Veteran’s Day to express our appreciation and gratitude for your service. That’s why every Team Car Care owned and operated Jiffy Lube® service center is offering our BEST discount of 10% OFF as a “Thank You” to the men and women of our Armed Forces for their service to our country. *Disclaimer*- I.D. required. No coupon is required. Excludes batteries and brakes, alignment, and diagnostic services. Available only at 3 select locations: Tioque Ave, Coventry RI – Bald Hill Road, Warwick RI – Park Ave, Cranston RI 

Michaels – offers a 15% off military discount on the entire in-store purchase including sale items for active duty, retired military, guard, reservists, veterans, and family members. How to get: 1. Create an account. Log in to Michaels Rewards. 2. Get verified. Provide your military information to get verified, instantly. 3. Go shopping! To use your discount online and in store, just sign into your account or provide your Michaels Rewards phone number at checkout. 

O’Reilly Auto Parts – 10% discount on in store items for Active Duty, Veterans and families. Last verified 3/4/21. 


If you are a retailer and or a veteran aware of a business not listed above, please forward to: [email protected]:  the business’s name, location, and military and veteran discount offered.

If you have an event, meeting, other pertinent veteran information, or email questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci, [email protected], ITAM Office 1-(401)677-9VET(9838)  


To read all columns in this series go to:  

John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.


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