Raleigh family struggles to give veteran proper funeral

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William McLeese, 66, died suddenly on April 10. As a veteran, he is entitled to a plot and other burial benefits, but there are other costs, not covered by the VA.

It's a difficult conversation to talk about death, but not talking about it can be even more costly.

A Raleigh family is learning the hard way about the business of burials, still waiting to raise the money to hold a funeral for William "Billy" McLeese, a father, husband and U.S. veteran.

"I'm thinking about money right now because I want to get him in the ground and have a decent funeral," McLeese's daughter, Jennifer Rogers, told the ABC11 I-Team. "I really want to tell him goodbye."

McLeese, 66, died suddenly on April 10. As a veteran, he's entitled to a plot, marker, opening and closing of the grave, and a flag.

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But that does not include the preparations, embalming, service, transportation, casket or service.

McLeese's family can also get at least $300 from the VA for costs toward a funeral.

READ MORE ABOUT BURIAL BENEFITS FOR VETERANS

"People are trying to help but we can only do so much," Rogers said.

McLeese did not have a life insurance policy.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the latest data shows a national median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial was $7,181.

SEE HOW FUNERAL COSTS HAVE CHANGED SINCE 2004 (.pdf)

If a cemetery requires a vault, the median cost balloons to $8,508. Notably, the cost does not take into account many more costs: cemetery, monument or marker costs, or miscellaneous cash-advance charges, such as flowers or an obituary.

Many funeral homes host seminars and information sessions to help families learn about funeral planning. They urge families to start saving early and discuss plans with loved ones before they pass to ensure a mourning period where the only focus is the memory of those lost.

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