Shaheen, Hassan Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Urging VA to Open Eligibility for Burial in State Veterans Cemeteries to All Service Members
**The letter continues the lawmakers’ push to secure burial equality for members of Reserve components and the National Guard**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in a letter today calling on the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to implement reforms to the Veterans Cemetery Grants Program. They asked that all members of Reserve Components and the National Guard be granted eligibility for burial in state veterans’ cemeteries, so long as their service was terminated under honorable conditions.
The letter continues the lawmakers’ push to secure burial equality for members of Reserve components and the National Guard. Currently, only certain service members who meet national eligibility standards are allowed to be buried if cemeteries receive federal grant funding – including the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen. In June, Shaheen introduced the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act, legislation supported by Hassan that would prohibit the VA from conditioning such grants on a cemetery’s compliance with existing eligibility criteria for burial. In additional to calling for reforms, the lawmakers requested that the VA cease its existing practice of punishing state veterans’ cemeteries that bury the spouses, minor children or unmarried adult children of those service members by also conditioning federal grants on a cemetery’s compliance with existing burial eligibility requirements.
“Dozens of commentators, including leaders of state veterans’ cemeteries from across the country, indicated they support efforts to expand eligibility for burial in a state veterans’ cemetery to additional members of the National Guard and Reserve Components,” wrote the lawmakers. “Leadership of the National Guard and state veterans’ cemeteries in our states have indicated that they strongly support this change in eligibility to ensure that those who served receive the proper burial that they deserve. We have also heard from constituents who served in the National Guard and Reserve components and believe that existing restrictions on the Department’s grant program fail to acknowledge their contributions in service of our nation.
They continued, “National Guardsmen and Reservists swear to defend this country just as their Active Duty counterparts do, and we must make sure that they receive the respect and recognition that they deserve.” The lawmakers concluded by requesting the VA consider these reforms to expand the eligibility for the Department’s Veterans Cemetery Grants Program as they review information gathered throughout its Request For Information process.
U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Representatives Chris Pappas (NH-01) and Annie Kuster (NH-02) also signed onto the letter.
The full text of the letter can be read here.