Burial AssistancePhoto Provided

By planning and pre-arranging funeral services, you can lessen the stress on family members when they need to start the grieving process. The Choctaw Nation Tribal Burial program and Veterans Advocacy can offer some assistance to qualified families.

Planning ahead can make time of death less stressful for family members

By Chris Jennings
September 1, 2022

The death of a family member is a trying time for many. Several things can be done beforehand that can ease the process, though. Knowing what’s involved and what needs to happen before death can take some stress away from family members so they can grieve and heal in a healthier way.

Three general steps need to happen after death: a funeral home will prepare the body; a ceremony will often be held but is not completely necessary; and the interment or burying or cremation of the body.

State regulations vary on what needs to happen at the time of death. The Texas Funeral Service Commission, which also serves Oklahoma, says when a death occurs, a coroner, Justice of the Peace, or attending physician must make a determination of death; locate a decedent’s letter of direction, funeral contract, insurance policy and/or will. A Report of Death and a death certificate is also required by law.

More information on funerals specific to each state, retail pricing and other helpful information can be found through the Funeral Consumers Alliance website.

Funeral homes can assist with taking care of all of this, along with pre-planning or pre-paying for a funeral.

Pre-planning is different from pre-paying. By pre-planning your funeral, you’re ensuring family members or the funeral home of your choice know what you want. By pre-paying, you get the planning and take the burden of payment away from family members.

There are downsides to pre-paying, though. You could move away from the area of the funeral home you paid, or the funeral home could go out of business.

If paying for your funeral is something you want to do but don’t want to work with a specific funeral home, you can talk to your bank about setting up an account payable on death.

These accounts will release funds to a beneficiary and give the resources covered to pay for the funeral you want. You can make deposits into this account regularly to save up for the funeral, allowing the person handling the arrangements to talk to several funeral homes and negotiate a price. Many funeral homes will work with family members on pricing.

If paying for a funeral is burdening your family, then the Choctaw Nation may be able to help.
“We pay, basically, towards the financial portion of a burial to the funeral home,” said Clinton Rogers with the Choctaw Nation Tribal Burial Programs.

However, Rogers says a common misconception is that this payment is an entitlement.

“We do not pay the family, and there’s not supposed to be any reimbursements from the funeral home to the family. So, it’s not an entitlement program where everybody’s automatically entitled to the assistance,” said Rogers.

The maximum payout to a funeral home is $2500. The Nation looks at the resources on hand to determine how much will be paid. Things like cash on hand for the deceased, burial policies and insurance policies are considered resources to pay for funeral costs. After these resources are used up, the Nation can help with the remaining costs, including working with the funeral home to reduce prices.

There is an application process to get assistance with a funeral.

“Once the application has been approved for your referral, the program will pay a specific portion ordered directly to the funeral home. Our staff will work with the funeral home to obtain all required documentation for expenses to help lessen the burden on your family during this time,” Rogers said.

The following guidelines must be met to be eligible for funeral services through the Nations Burial Program:

  • Applicants must notify our office at the time of the tribal member’s death.
  • Applications must be received in our office within 30 days of passing.
  • Choctaw tribal membership and CDIB card (will be verified through our membership office) for the deceased.
  • A valid Social Security Card for the deceased is required.
  • Submit final funeral home itemized statement with an unpaid balance.
  • Submit a certified copy of death certificate.

If you would like to incorporate some Choctaw culture during your funeral, the Tribal Burial Program has links to recorded hymns in Choctaw.

The Burial Program can also assist with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Burial Assistance Program. The Nation is authorized to use this funding when applicable. The BIA program is intended for families with no resources available. Funeral homes are obligated to accept these funds as payment in full for service rendered. Services are limited and can’t be altered in any way.

Certain guidelines must be followed for the BIA program:

  • Must reside within the Choctaw service area.
  • Must be a member of any federally recognized tribe, verified by a tribal membership card and have a valid CDIB card.
  • The deceased may not have resources (life insurance, veteran’s benefits, cash, savings accounts, etc.).
  • Residential verification that the deceased has lived within the Choctaw Nation service area for six months before death. Must supply a utility bill or mail with physical location listed address as proof of residency.
  • Proof of income for the deceased.

For more information visit the Choctaw Burial Program webpage.

If you’re a Choctaw veteran, you and your spouse are eligible to be interred at the Veterans Cemetery at Tvshka Homma. The Choctaw Nation will provide a vault and plot at Tvshka Homma and up to a certain amount for funeral expenses that are paid directly to the funeral home. The Veteran Advocacy Department will also help with pre-arrangements and completing the headstone applications for the veteran’s family.

“Whether it be you, or a spouse, if you both would like to be buried inside the Tvshka Homma Veterans Cemetery, we can pre-arrange that beforehand and get your wants in line,” said Mykiyah Battiest with the Veterans Advocacy department.

Veteran Advocacy can also help request the Choctaw Honor Guard to do a 21-gun salute, play Taps and present an American flag to the family.

For more information view all veterans programs and services.