RI Veterans: Did You Know? – 3 June 21 – John A. Cianci

by John A. Cianci, Department Veterans Service Officer, Italian American War Veterans (ITAM), contributing writer on Veterans issues

“Free Burial for Eligible Veterans at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery”

State of Rhode Island Burial Benefits

Did you know eligible veterans, spouses, and dependents children may be buried at the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery (RIVMC) in Exeter, RI?  Burial for eligible veterans is provided at NO COST.

Burial for spouses and dependents incur fees; according to spokesperson for State of Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services, Meghan Connelly, costs are as follows for spouses and dependents:

  • $210 for a casket liner
  • $110 for an in-ground cremation liner

Did you know a veteran’s spouse or dependent could be buried before the eligible Veteran’s death at the RIVMC in Exeter, RI?

Did you know a veteran can submit a pre-application to the RIVMC, to include listing spouse and eligible dependent(s) online, mail, or by fax?

Eligibility for burial at RIVMC is as follows:

  • Honorable service
  • RI resident for 2 consecutive years prior to death, OR
  • Joined the service from RI (this information would be on the veterans DD214), OR
  • Veterans with active duty service for which they received a campaign or expeditionary medal (ex., Desert Storm Veterans), OR
  • Veterans with 2+ consecutive years of active duty during peacetime, OR
  • Veterans with 20+years of National Guard or Reserve service

Documents for proof of service consist of a DD214, NGB-22, or the equivalent.

Proof of residency consists of an RI driver’s license, RI voter registration, or IRS tax forms.

VETTIP: Suggest you preregister yourself, to include adding your spouse or dependent on the application online, at; http://www,

The phone number for the RIVMC Administration Office is (401)-268-3088.

More information on RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery retrieved from the cemetery’s website:

RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery is a dignified and solemn military cemetery on 280 acres in Exeter, RI. The grounds of the cemetery are beautifully maintained and include 31 monuments dedicated to veterans of specific wars and conflicts. The Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery offers in-ground casket, in-ground cremation and above-ground columbarium cremation sites. Committal services for veterans and eligible spouses/dependents are 15 minutes in length to include military honors. Gravesite locations are assigned by the Administration Office at the time of death.

From my own experience assisting families who seek to bury their loved one at the RIVMC, the staff at the cemetery will assist and navigate you thru the process. Moreover, most funeral homes are seasoned and experienced in expediting the process for a deceased veterans’ family. The phone number for the RIVMC Administration Office is (401) 268-3088.

Next week’s column will cover federal burial benefits for eligible veterans, to include up to thousands of dollars of reimbursement for burial expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 How do I obtain proof of service if the Veteran dies, and I need immediate burial services?

Most funeral homes will provide you points of contacts for a local congressional office for assistance. With a congressional inquiry, proof of service is usually obtained in a few days.

*See VETTIP, why I suggest if your intent is to be buried at RIVMC, pre-register.

Q2 How do I pre-register?

Step 1. Acquire required documents (DD214, proof of residency).

Step 2.

         Option 1 Apply online, http://www,

         Option 2 Fax the application and supporting documents to (401) 295-8797

         Option 3 Mail application and supporting documents to:

                       R.I Veterans Memorial Cemetery Application

                       301 South County Trail

                       Exeter, Rhode Island 02822-9712

          Option 4 Take a ride out and visit the RIVMC. Stop in at normal business hours with your supporting documents and fill out the application.

Q3 What should I do if I received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge?

If you’ve received one of these discharge statuses, you may not be eligible for VA pension benefits. Operation Stand Down, (401) 383-4730, provides free assistance to apply for a discharge upgrade or go to

Q4 How do I apply for VA Healthcare?

VA Health Care Enrollment Process

  1. Online – Apply online at VA’s website.
  2. By Telephone – Call toll-free number at 877-222-VETS (8387)
  3. In Person – Complete the “Application for Health Benefits” at your local VA. Find a VA Medical Center.

All Veterans are encouraged to enroll in the VA Health Care System. 
You can apply online at or call an eligibility and enrollment specialist at 401-273-7100 ext. 12496 during normal business hours.

Or you may print the Application for Health Care Benefits form and mail it to:

VA Providence Healthcare System
Eligibility Office – Patient Services (136)
830 Chalkstone Avenue
Providence, RI  02908

You can also bring the form to the Medical Center. The Eligibility Office is located on the ground floor of the main hospital building near the main entrance.

Whether mailing or bringing your application, please include the following items:

  • a copy of both sides of your current insurance card (including Medicare or Medicaid)
  • a copy of your DD214, ‘Armed Forces Report of Transfer or Discharge’
  • (Purple Heart recipients only) a copy of your award letter if ‘Purple Heart’ is not noted on your DD214

VA encourages all Veterans to apply in order to determine their enrollment eligibility.

VETTIP. In my opinion and experience, your best bet is to go to the Providence VA Medical Center, 830 Chalkstone Ave, Providence with your DD214 and a form of identification and a VA representative will assist you in registering.

Q5 How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade

Answer a series of questions to get customized step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction. If your application goes through and your discharge is upgraded, you’ll be eligible for the VA Benefits you earned during your period of service.

All branches of the military consider you to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if you can show your discharge was connected to any of these categories:

Mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Sexual assault or harassment during military service (at VA, we refer to this as military sexual trauma or MST)

Sexual orientation (including under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy)

Can I get VA benefits without a discharge upgrade?

Even with a less than honorable discharge, you may be able to access some VA benefits through the Character of Discharge review process. When you apply for VA benefits, they’ll review your record to determine if your service was “honorable for VA purposes.” This review can take up to a year. Please provide documents supporting your case, similar to the evidence you’d send with an application to upgrade your discharge.

You may want to consider finding someone to advocate on your behalf, depending on the complexity of your case. A lawyer or Veterans Service Organization (VSO) can collect and submit supporting documents for you. 

Note: You can ask for a VA Character of Discharge review while at the same time applying for a discharge upgrade from the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Coast Guard.

If you need mental health services related to PTSD or other mental health problems linked to your service (including conditions related to an experience of military sexual trauma), you may qualify for VA health benefits right away, even without a VA Character of Discharge review or a discharge upgrade.


Saturday, June 5, 2021, 830-1000am FREE BREAKFAST

Building Bridges will hold its monthly free breakfast for Veterans this Saturday in the Parish Hall at Christ Church, Main Street, Swansea Village. Co-sponsored by Vet to Vet/Boston and Christ Church. Non-religious outreach to veterans from the community — a bridge, if you will, connecting the two. All Veterans welcome. No reservation needed. – “Yours in comradeship, Dave McCarthy, Vet to Vet/Boston, Building Bridges Area Coordinator. NOTE: This breakfast is held FIRST Saturday of every month; I attended the one last month and had an awesome breakfast and met up with some Veterans I had not seen for years.

Monday, June 7, 2021, 900-1100am Refreshments, Federal Hill Veterans Coffee House, at ROMA, Atwells Ave, Providence. ponsored by the Italian American War Veterans. Always the first Monday of the month, lots of Italian pasties and camaraderie.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 900-100 Refreshments, Northern Rhode Island Veteran Coffee House, sponsored by American Legion Berard-Desjariais Post #88 and the Italian American War Veterans of Rhode Island, 111 Chapel Street Harrisville, RI 02830. Coffee and pastries for the coffee hour, followed by hamburgers and hotdogs for lunch—-ALL FREE.

Unemployed veterans, seeking certificates and/or 12-month college programs, a must to attend, Sign up for FREE programs available for Veterans with COVID-19 monies. AND GET HOUSING ALLOWANCE WHILE ATTENDING THE TRAINING.

Saturday, June 12th9AM Refreshments, 10AM Speaker, “Rhode Island National Guard Retirees’ Association Quarterly Meeting”, Schofield Armory, 705 New London Avenue, Cranston.  Point of contact is Bob Urquhart at [email protected].  Guest speaker to be determined.

Saturday, June 12th, time currently unknown, “Brian’s Ride 2021”, 15th Anniversary Memorial Ride. For more information and/or questions, call 401.837.7331, or email [email protected].  


Friday, August 6th11AM, “Rhode Island National Guard Summer Reunion”, Quonset Officers’ Club, 200 Lieutenant James Brown Road, North Kingstown.  Point of contact is Bob Antonelli at 401.996.3764, or via email at [email protected]Cut-off date is Tuesday, August 3rd  

September 15-20, 2021, USMC Tankers Association Facility: Crown Plaza Providence-Warwick, 801 Greenwich Ave., Warwick RI 02886. Point of Contact Name: John Wear. Point of Contact Telephone: 719-495-5998. Point of Contact Email: [email protected] . Comments: The USMC Vietnam Tankers Association will be holding our 12th biennial reunion. Anyone who served with any of the Marine tank battalions or Ontos units in Vietnam . . . in any capacity is welcome!!!    

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].


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, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, 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.