Frequently Asked Questions

What to Do When Death Occurs

Several things need to be considered when a death occurs. The order in which things need to be done usually depends on whether the death occurred at a residence, a public place, a care center, or in a hospital.

Today a large number of people choose to be at home with Hospice or a Home Health Care provider assisting the family until the death occurs. Usually the family will notify Hospice of the provider and Hospice will notify the proper people in the correct order. They will contact the physician, the county coroner, and they will call the funeral home. The county coroner’s office needs to be notified to all deaths that occur in a home. With Hospice or a Home Health Care Provider involved, a simple phone call is the only notification that the county coroner needs. The county coroner will not need to come to the residence to review any information.
If Hospice or a Home Health Care Provider is not involved, 911 would need to be notified and an ambulance dispatched, the ambulance crew needs to notify the police who will then need to come to the residence. The police will then have their normal investigation that they will need to follow through with before calling the funeral home.

  • If the death occurs in a residence and no one is there at the time of death, the police will need to be notified and respond to the residence before the deceased is removed from their home.
  • If the death occurs in a hospital or care center, the name of the funeral home may be left with them, and the institution will notify the funeral home at the time of the death. The funeral home will respond and at the next practical time, review matters with the family.
  • If in any case the death should occur and you are not sure of who to notify or what to do, you may call your funeral home and they will assist you in notifying the proper agencies.

There are several other questions that you may have in regards to the death of your loved one, such as, “do I have to have embalming?”, “do I need to purchase a casket?”, “what about cemetery arrangements?”, “does the family have a minister?”, “do we want cremation, visitation,. . . ?” By contacting Nelson-Berna Funeral Home, we will be able to help answer your questions and assist in making the appropriate plans. However, one of the best ways to make sure that all of your questions and desires are taken care of is to make pre-arrangements. This is as simple as outlining your wishes to having all of the details written down and the financial arrangements prepaid. Please contact one of our staff to learn more.

Benefits Information


  The following information is designed to help you determine what benefits may be available to you. If you have any questions on how to apply, please contact our staff at 815-288-2241.


Who may receive monthly benefits?

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled), or at any age if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
  • A divorced widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled) if the marriage lasted 10 years, or if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
  • Unmarried children up to 18 (19 if they are attending a primary or secondary school full time).
  • Children who were disabled before reaching 22, as long as they remained disabled.
  • Dependent parent or parents 62 or older.

Lump-sum death payment

  • A one-time payment of $255 is paid in addition to the monthly cash benefits described above. The lump-sum death payment (LSDP) is paid in the following priority order:
  • A surviving spouse who lived in the same household as the deceased person at the time of death.
  • A surviving spouse eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.
  • A child or children eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.

Applying for benefits

You must apply in order to receive benefits. You may apply at any Social Security office or, if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just dial the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 and the operator will schedule an appointment for you or arrange for the local Social Security office to take your claim by telephone.

Social security teleservice - doing business by telephone

You may call Social Security toll-free, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The number to use is 1-800-772-1213. To speak with a representative, call between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm on regular business days. At other times and on weekends and holidays, you may leave a message and they will call you back, in most cases, the next business day.


What is a VA Burial Allowance?

A VA burial allowance is a partial reimbursement of an eligible veteran's burial and funeral costs. When the cause of death is not service-related, the reimbursement is generally described as two payments: (1) a burial and funeral expense allowance, and (2) a plot interment allowance.

Who Is Eligible?

You may be eligible for a VA burial allowance if:

  • you paid for a veteran's burial or funeral AND
  • you have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source,
  • such as the deceased veteran's employer AND
  • the veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

In addition, at least one of the following conditions must be met:

  • the veteran died because of a service-related disability or
  • the veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death or
  • the veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay or
  • the veteran died in a VA hospital or while in a nursing home under VA contract, or while in an approved state nursing home.

How Much Does VA Pay?

Service-Related Death. VA will pay up to $1,500 toward burial expenses for deaths prior to September 10, 2001. For deaths on or after September 11, 2001, VA will pay $2,000. If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of moving the deceased may be reimbursed.

Nonservice-Related Death. VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses, and a $150 plot interment allowance for deaths prior to December 1, 2001. The plot-interment allowance is $300 for deaths on or after December 1, 2001. If the death happened while the veteran was in a VA hospital or under contracted nursing home care, some of all of the costs for transporting the deceased’s remains may be reimbursed.

How Can You Apply?

You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-530, Application for Burial Allowance. You should attach proof of the veteran's military service (DD 214), a death certificate, and copies of funeral and burial bills you have paid.

Related Benefits

    Burial in VA National Cemeteries     Headstones and Markers
    Presidential Memorial Certificates     Burial Flags

For More Information Call Toll-Free 1-800-827-1000
Or, Visit Our Web Site At http://www.cem.va.gov

Compensation & Pension Service – April 2002

Help With Grief

  Caring for yourself is not selfish. The period of recovery is different for every person. There is no timetable for grief, so don't compare yourself with others who have lost loved ones. Your life has changed and healing in your own way is important for the health of your mind, body and spirit. It's normal for some days to be better than others.

At Nelson-Berna Funeral Home & Crematory, we strive to provide the resources to help you with the grief process. Please contact one of our staff to help guide you towards the information, support, or counseling options you may need.

Should you prefer an online source of grief resources; the following link will also provide you with sound information to help you manage your feelings and emotions at this most difficult time.

"Though grief is a natural and necessary process, it's also an extraordinarily difficult one. We're here to help mourners and those who care for them."
--Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., Director

Legal Information

Organ Donation

Who can be a donor?

Anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender can become an organ donor. Organs and tissue that can’t be used for transplantation, due to advanced age or disease, can often be used to help find cures for serious illnesses.

How do I become a donor?

How are recipients selected?

Law under the National Transplant Act strictly mandates the selection process. A carefully monitored system allows full and equal access to donated organs and tissues for all potential recipients.

Criteria for deciding which person on the waiting list will receive organs or tissues from a particular donor depends on factors such as the tissue and blood type, body size and the degree of illness of the potential recipient.

Is there any cost or payment for organ/tissue donation?

The donor’s family estate is never changed for the removal of any organs, nor do they receive any compensation.

Does organ/tissue donation affect funeral practices?

No. Families may make final funeral arrangements, including an open casket funeral, for burial or cremation.

Is there a conflict between using any organs/tissues and saving my life?

No. Donation is not considered until all efforts to save a person have failed. The transplant team has no involvement in the patient’s care prior to death and is notified only after death has occurred.

What organs/tissues can be donated?

Organs that can be donated are the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys. Among the tissues can be donated are corneas to restore sight, bone to prevent amputation, heart valves for children born with heart problems or adults with heart disease, tendons to replace damaged tissues in injured joints, saphenous veins for bypass surgeries and skin as a temporary covering to reduce pain and infection in burn victims. Up to 50 people can benefit from a single donor.

How is donation viewed by my religion?

All major western religions support donation as a final, charitable act of giving to others.

What if I change my mind?

You may ask to remove your name from the Donor Registry at any time by calling 866.660.5433. If you have signed the donor card on your license/ID card, simply write VOID across it.


The Donor Registry is a computerized database that documents your wishes regarding donation. The Registry provides valuable information to families who are unaware of a loved one’s intentions and are asked at the hospital for consent donate.

All information is confidential. Only organ banks and coroners have access.

How do I join registry?

When you visit the Driver’s Services facility, you will be asked if you intend to sign the organ/tissue donor portion on the back of the driver’s license and would like to join the registry. Your response is entered on your record. You can register by phone by calling the Organ Donor Registry at 866.660.5433, or via the Internet by accessing their online application form.

Does the registry replace the donor card on the back of my driver’s license or ID card?

No. The Registry is meant as a supplement, not a replacement, to the uniform organ donor card on the back of the driver’s license. But either action still depends on consent from the next-of-kin before any organs can be removed. So please talk to your family.


Today, all across Arkansas, thousands of people are able to live fuller and more productive lives because of the lifesaving decisions made by families like yours. Although it is hard to believe at the time, it is possible for something positive to come from death...a new life for someone else.

Many donor families have found comfort in knowing that they and their loved one have helped life go on for someone else.

Families of prospective donors must give their permission before donation of a loved one’s organs and tissues can occur. It is much easier for your family to make the decision to donate if they know your wishes ahead of time.

Will organ/tissue donation affect the level of medical care my loved one receives?

No. Donation is never considered until all efforts to save your loved one have failed.

How does the family communicate an individual’s wish to donate organs/tissues?

Federal law states that hospitals must offer you the option of donating your loved one’s organs. But don’t wait to be asked. Approach the hospital staff or coroner’s staff and make your loved one’s wishes known.

Survivors Checklist

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