As Congress Finalizes Government Funding Legislation, Shaheen & Bipartisan Group of Senators Call on Leadership to Prioritize Bill to Open Eligibility for Burial in State Veterans Cemeteries to All Service MembersMarch 07, 2022
**Push follows Senators’ letter to Senate and House leadership in January & after the bill cleared a key committee hurdle in December**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Hoeven (R-ND) issued the following statements as Congress nears a final agreement on government funding legislation, urging Senate and House leadership to include their bipartisan bill to ensure all members of Reserve components and the National Guard are eligible to be buried in state veterans cemeteries, so long as their service was not terminated under dishonorable conditions. The bill cleared a key committee hurdle in December.
The Senators’ statements today follow their letter to Senate and House leadership in January, which was also signed by Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01), that called for the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act to be included in government funding legislation.
“Our bipartisan legislation would expand eligibility for our fallen heroes to be buried beside service members who similarly served their nation with honor and distinction. This is a commonsense bill to recognize the service of our Reservists and National Guard members, and provide their communities and families a public space to celebrate their lives by allowing burial in state veterans cemeteries,” said Senator Shaheen. “Anything less than equal burial honors falls short of the respect and acknowledgement that our National Guard members and Reservists earned. I urge Senate and House leadership to include our bipartisan legislation in the government funding bill so New Hampshire Reservists and National Guard members are paid the same respects as other members of the military.”
“Our guard and reservists selflessly fight and fill the gap wherever and whenever Americans need them. And when they live their last day, a state ought to have the autonomy to choose how they honor their veterans, without the looming threat of the federal government’s financial retaliation. Our bill ensures members of reserve components are eligible to be buried in state veterans’ cemeteries if states so choose. This is the least we can do to honor our nation’s heroes. This bill passed unanimously in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. I urge my colleagues in the Senate and House to pass the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act now,” said Senator Cramer, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“The men and women who sign up for the National Guard and Reserve take an oath to defend their country just like their Active Duty counterparts – and they deserve the same respect when they are buried,” said Senator Hassan, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I urge Congress to include our bipartisan bill in the upcoming funding package, which will ensure that National Guard members and Reservists can be buried in state veterans cemeteries. I will continue pushing to make sure that all of our country’s service members receive the recognition and honor that they have earned through their service.”
“Members of the National Guard and Reserve components have earned honor and recognition for their essential contributions to our nation’s defense, right alongside Active Duty servicemembers,” said Senator Hoeven. “That’s why we’ve advanced this legislation, which would ensure Guard and Reserve members can be laid to rest with honor in state veterans cemeteries, giving them more options for burial without risking the federal funding upon which these cemeteries rely.”
Currently, only certain service members who meet national eligibility standards are allowed to be buried in veterans cemeteries if the cemeteries receive federal grant funding – including the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen. The Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act corrects that by prohibiting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from conditioning such grants on a cemetery’s compliance with existing eligibility criteria for burial. Last year, the lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) calling on the VA to implement these reforms to the Veterans Cemetery Grants Program.
First introduced in 2020, the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act was updated to:
- Ensure that the VA cannot limit plot allowances provided to state veterans cemeteries if they choose to bury the individuals specified in the legislation.
- Allow children of those eligible for burial to be buried in a state veterans cemetery as well if they choose.
Representative Chris Pappas, a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is leading the legislation in the House, which is cosponsored by Representatives Annie Kuster and Steven Palazzo (MS-04).
Full text of the bill is available here.
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