Presidential Memorial Certificates, the best little program in VA

You’re a Veteran and you know about VA Home Loans, you know about the GI Bill, you know about CHAMPUS and some of you may know that you’re entitled to medical care at our nations VA Medical Centers or burial in a State Veterans Cemetery or a National Cemetery. Be honest, have you ever heard of Presidential Memorial Certificates (PMC)?

Established in 1962 under President John F, Kennedy, the PMC program has printed and delivered more than fourteen million certificates honoring the memory and sacrifice of honorably discharged deceased members of our nation’s armed forces. The parchment document provided today includes a gold foil embossed Presidential Seal, an expression of gratitude recognizing selfless consecration to the service of our country, and is presented over the signature of this nation’s current sitting President.

The program was originally conceived by a WWII disabled American Veteran. The concept was to provide a tribute to all fallen service members that was signed by the President of the United States. The administration for the program was assigned to the Veterans Affairs (we weren’t a department yet) in 1962 and the PMC program was formally enacted into law on July 24, 1965 as Public Law 89-88.

The PMC program was transferred to the National Cemetery System (NCS, now known as the National Cemetery Administration, NCA) in 1990. A far more automated process for producing the PMC was developed at that time and procedures were streamlined to take full advantage of those changes. Prior to this, each certificate was painstakingly produced and processed and proved extremely labor intensive. Certificate requests were ordered via mail, compiled and sorted, eligibility was verified, then the certificates were printed, the gold seal was embossed on each one, each certificate was then typed out, inspected for quality and damages, then each was inserted into a special envelope, and mailed by the Veterans Affairs Central Office mail room. Start to finish this process took six months (180 days) and sometimes much longer. To address this, contracts were entered into with the Government Printing Office (GPO) and put in place to automate and produce in quantity what was once done by hand. All of the changes were introduced to improve the overall ordering proficiency and shorten the amount of time it took for the certificate to be delivered. The changes had an almost immediate impact as the delivery cycle went from an average of 24 weeks (from the day the request was received, to the day it arrived in a mailbox) down to an average of 12 – 16 weeks.

The PMC program’s most recent changes include automatically ordering a certificate for the Next Of Kin or loved ones for Veterans who chose to be buried in our State Veterans Cemeteries or in any of the 131 National Cemeteries located across our nation. PMC’s are now also ordered automatically for the applicant of record when a government furnished headstone, marker, or medallion is ordered through the Memorial Programs Service for the National Cemetery Administration.

In fiscal year 2010 and 2011 over one million certificates were printed and mailed to the families and loved ones of deceased Veterans from across the world with an error rate or correction rate of less than one percent and while that’s pretty amazing the average delivery time has also gone down to an average of 10-12 weeks (90 days or less) for each request. Some of the more exciting changes that our customers will never see are improvements to our assembly process which are again designed to shorten the assembly and delivery cycle by as much as a third—cutting the average time to reach Vets and their families by 3 to 4 weeks. Another change that will never be seen is the effort to be ever more fiscally responsible with the tax dollars that support this important program. These most recent changes have reduced the overall cost for each certificate by more than 40 percent.

The PMC program works every day toward improving their level of service and expanding program awareness throughout the U.S. Veteran population. This program is entirely free to all applicants for all certificates sent and there are no time or quantity restrictions. For more general information about the PMC program please visit our web site at http://www.cem.va.gov  On our web site you can find information about how to order a PMC, what supporting documents are needed to process your request, how to get a copy of our application form (VA Form 40-0247) and instructions on how to submit your application to our toll free fax line at 1-800-455-7143.

James Flanagan has been the PMC Program Manager since August of 2007. He started his career with NCA on a 30 day temporary appointment as a wage grade employee in 1993. James served proudly in the United States Marine Corps on active duty from 1975-1979. He lives in Haymarket, VA with his wife of 35 years.

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One Comment to “Presidential Memorial Certificates, the best little program in VA”

  1. Rose Coop says:

    Indeed, I do know about PMCs. I’d dare say, not many vets are aware of it though, and those who do know about it are not apt to share that info with their family and loved ones. Seems like when a vet passes away, survivors are too overwhelmed with completing all the immediate tasks required to pay much mind to requesting a certificate. Even after things start to calm down and survivors begin to find their bearings, they don’t always seem impressed with the concept. But one thing is for sure … every survivor I’ve visited after their certificate arrived has handled it with extreme care and displayed it prominently. Sometimes I think it even helps the survivors stand a little taller … with a little more pride … to know their veteran’s service has been acknowledged by a grateful nation and President of the United States. I’m not much into putting award certificates on the wall … I’d send mine home to mom and now that she’s gone I’ve got them all stuffed in a folder somewhere … but I hope when I’m gone, somebody will be there to talk my family into getting a PMC, so they can perhaps feel a bit of what I’ve seen on the faces of so many survivors over the years. Thank you for the article. I’ll be sharing it with my DAV chapter members, and with vets at the VA … especially where I volunteer, in the Oncology Clinic. I never knew exactly how labor-intensive it has been all these years for you to produce each PMC. I just wanted you to have a glimpse of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your handiwork. It’s long overdue but, on behalf of myself, my mother, my mother’s mother, and a greatful nation of veterans’ survivors, I sincerely thank you. You folks continue to be a blessing to so very, very many.