Zizelmann-Roche and Gulla Funeral Homes

Public Service Advisories

From time to time, our funeral home publishes public service advisories in our local papers. These announcements advise the communities we serve of changes in government laws or policies, consumer concerns, or other relevant topics. 

December, 2011; Veteran Benefits Increased

A new federal statute that went into effect on October 1, 2011 raised the burial and funeral reimbursement amount of $300 to $700 for veterans who either die in a Veteran's Administration (VA) facility or who are eligible for burial in a national cemetery. H.R. 3219, the Veteran's Benefit Act of 2010, section 501, will also allow for an annual adjustment of the VA's funeral and burial benefit based on prevailing Consumer Price Index (CPI). For more information about veteran burial benefits, visit the National Cemetery Administration website at www.cem.va.gov or call (800) 827-1000. 

August, 2010; Medallions for Veterans

Veteran MedallionsThe Department of Veterans Affairs is making available a new medallion to be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker to signify the deceased's status as a veteran.

If requested, the medallion will be furnished in lieu of a traditional Government headstone or marker for veterans that died on or after November 1, 1990, and whose grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.

The medallion is currently available in three sizes, 5 inches, 3 inches, and 1 ½ inches. Each medallion will be inscribed with the word VETERAN across the top and the Branch of Service at the bottom. Appropriate affixing adhesive, instructions and hardware will be provided with the medallion.

This benefit is only applicable if the grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker. In these instances, eligible veterans are entitled to either a traditional Government-furnished headstone or marker, or the new medallion, but not both.

Contact our funeral home at (570) 668-0390 if you are interested in obtaining a medallion.

August, 2009; Additional Options on VA Headstone Applications

The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently designing a medallion to be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker to signify the deceased's status as a veteran.

If requested, this new product will be furnished in lieu of a traditional Government headstone or marker to those veterans that died on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.

The VA estimates this new medallion will be available before the end of calendar year 2009 and we will begin accepting claims at that time.

Important: This benefit is only applicable if the grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker. In these instances, eligible veterans are entitled to either a traditional Government-furnished headstone or marker, or the new medallion, but not both.

If you think you may be interested in submitting a claim for the new medallion, the VA will begin accepting claims once a contract has been awarded for its manufacture. Claim instructions will be posted on this website. If, after seeing the final new medallion design, you change your mind, you will still have the option to submit a claim for a traditional Government-furnished headstone or marker.

The VA has also announced the availability of new emblems of belief for placement on government headstones and markers. The entire set of emblems can be viewed at http://www.cem.va.gov/hm/hmemb.asp.

January, 2009; Changes to Application for Burial Flag

Recently, changes were made to the Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes form (21-2008) as issued by the Department of Veteran Affairs. It is now necessary to produce a veteran’s discharge (DD Form 214) or other documentation to obtain a flag.

Specifically, the form states:

“Provide a copy of the veteran’s discharge documents that shows service dates and the character of service, such as DD Form 214, or verification of service from the veteran’s service department or VA. Note: If the claimant is unable to provide documentary proof, a flag may be issued when a statement is made by a person of established character and reputation that he/she personally knows the deceased to have been a veteran who meets the eligibility criteria.”

November, 2008; Revised Veteran's Expansion Act

The Department of Veteran's Affairs has revised the Veteran's Expansion Act that was signed into law in June of 2005 (see our posting below dated June, 2005). The original act permits veterans who have died since September 11, 2001 to receive a government marker regardless of whether or not a private marker is in place. The revision to this act permits veterans who have passed away since November 1, 1990 to be provided with a marker. Please contact our office if you wish to apply for a marker in light of this change in legislation.

February, 2008; Economic Stimulus Act of 2008

Recovery rebates reaching as high as $600 for individuals and $1,200 for married couples will soon be deposited or mailed to an estimated 130 million Americans. The rebates are the centerpiece of a $152 billion package in the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (H.R. 5140) designed to jumpstart the U.S. economy. 

The new law allows a refundable credit against tax to low and middle-income individuals for 2008 in an amount calculated as the greater of:

  1. Net income tax liability, not to exceed $600 ($1,200 for joint filers), or 
  2. $300 ($600 for joint filers) if the individual has either: 
    •  At least $3,000 of any combination of earned income, Social Security benefits, and certain veterans’ benefits (including survivors of disabled veterans), or 
    • Net income tax liability of at least $1 and gross income greater than the sum of applicable basic standard deduction amount and personal exemption(s) ($8,950 for singles, $17,900 for joint filers).

Examples of the rebate credit computation are:

Taxpayer

Qualifying Income

Rebate

Single

$3,000 in Social Security benefits

$300

Single

$50,000 in earned income

$600

Single/1 child

$50,000 in earned income

$900

Married couple/2 children

$60,000 in earned income

$1,800

Married couple/4 children

$70,000 in earned income

$2,400

Higher income taxpayers are excluded from the rebates. Additionally, rebates will not be paid to trusts and estates or to dependents. 

Decedents for whom a final income tax for 2007 is filed, however, are entitled to a rebate. It is therefore advisable for survivors of decedants who passed away in 2007 to maintain a bank account in the decedent’s name until the receipt of the rebate from the government. 

If you have any questions regarding this advisory, please contact our funeral home at (570) 668-0390. 

May, 2006; Military Funeral Protests Restricted

Demonstrations at 124 VA cemeteries and at Arlington National Cemetery will now be more restricted and families of fallen American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines now have greater protections under federal law.

Craig worked closely with Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), both cosponsors of the amendment, to secure passage of the America’s Fallen Heroes Act. 

"For the past few years, small bands of protestors have gathered at the funerals of fallen military heroes. The conduct of those protestors has been as outrageous as it has been unwelcomed. While this fringe group has yet to appear at Federal cemeteries, we must be proactive to guard these shrines from their attempts to shock and offend what is a captive, grieving audience," said Senator Larry Craig, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. 

The new law, HR 5037, will not stop the protests, but it restricts under federal law how far away protestors can gather from cemetery access points. 

"As we crafted this amendment in the Senate, and later with the concurrence of my House colleagues, we tried to strike a balance between the first amendment rights of Americans to express ideas – even ideas we find quite repugnant -- with the important need to have respect for the fallen and their families. I am pleased that the new law reflects the changes we sought," Craig said. 

Under the restrictions adopted by the Senate, a protestor making any "noise or diversion that disturbs or tends to disturb the peace or good order of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony" may not do so within 150 feet of any point of access to or exit from cemetery property. It also prohibits any demonstration that is within 300 feet of cemetery property that would impede access to or exit from the property. 

February, 2006; Railroad Retirement Benefits

The state of Pennsylvania has released a list of names of railroad workers who died between 1996 and 2001 whose beneficiaries may be owed as much as $2,000 from unclaimed life insurance policies. Met-Life, Inc. is the administrator of the Health and Welfare Plan of the Nation's Railroads and the Railway Labor Organizations.

If you believe that you or someone you know may be entitled for benefits, contact Met-Life's Railroad Operations Center at (800) 310-7770. Proof of eligibility will be necessary to process any claims.

September, 2005; Identity Theft

Identity theft is a growing problem in the United States, and one of the most common victims are family members of a recently deceased individual. For example, the IRS recently rejected the tax return of the parents of a deceased toddler because someone else had already filed a return that listed their child as a dependent. In another case, a funeral home in Colorado received a suspicious phone call from someone calling themselves a family member asking for a copy of the death certificate of someone who left no immediate survivors. Anyone who has a social security number, from newborns to eighty-year olds, can be a victim of identity theft and those committing the crime will watch obituaries and steal death certificates to obtain the necessary information. 

To minimize the risk, notify all financial institutions of a death as soon as possible, including credit card companies, banks, stock brokers, and mortgage companies. Furthermore, until you notify credit reporting agencies, they will not be aware of the death. An active credit file will stay open up to ten years without any activity. Thieves will take advantage of this and try to attach themselves to the social security number of a deceased because of the long length of time that is possible until they are discovered. For more information, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center at (858) 693-7935 or at www.idtheftcenter.org

June, 2005; Veteran's Expansion Act

President Bush has signed Public Law 107-103: The Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act. This law includes a provision that allows the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to furnish an appropriate headstone or marker for the graves of eligible veterans buried in private cemeteries whose death occurred on or after September 11, 2001, regardless of whether the grave is already marked with a non-government marker.

Therefore, if you or someone you know has buried a veteran since September 11, 2001 and was denied a veteran’s marker on the basis that a private headstone was already in place, you can now apply. Please contact our funeral home to make an appointment to complete the application. The application requires a copy of the veteran’s discharge (Form DD-214). Please note that in order to qualify, military service after September 7, 1980 must be for a minimum of twenty-four months continuous active duty or be must be completed under certain special circumstances.

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If you have questions regarding any of the announcements posted below, please contact our office at (570) 668-0390 or (570) 645-5450.