Shaheen, Pappas Introduce Bill to Expand Eligibility for State Veterans Cemeteries to Additional Guard & Reserve Members

July 22, 2020

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01) have introduced legislation that expands eligibility for state veterans cemeteries to allow for the interring of many Guard members and Reservists who are currently excluded from burial at these cemeteries. Under current law, in order to receive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grant money for improvements, state veteran cemeteries are barred from interring many National Guard members and Reservists due to rules requiring active service. This legislation would modify existing law to allow state cemeteries to decide whether to inter an honorably discharged Guard member, Reservist, or their spouse, without jeopardizing federal grant money. The bill is also co-sponsored by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH).   

On a Zoom press conference earlier today, Colonel Warren Perry, the Deputy Adjutant General for the State of NH, and Shawn Buck, Director of New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery, spoke out in favor of Senator Shaheen and Congressman Pappas’s bill.  

“All Guard and Reserve members signed up to give back to our country and they shouldn’t be needlessly prohibited from the honor of being buried at state veterans cemeteries, especially if a state veterans cemetery has the capacity to expand burial eligibility,” said Shaheen. “Our legislation would allow the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery, and other cemeteries around the country, to move forward with its desire to honor these critical members of our Armed forces. It’s our hope that generations of Granite Staters will be able to pay tribute at our state veterans cemetery to more of our Guard and Reserve members who took that sacred oath to serve.” 

“This bill is about equity for members of the National Guard and reserves in allowing them to have a final resting place that befits their service and sacrifice,” said Pappas. “We should allow our state veterans cemeteries to bury these heroes without the risk of losing federal funding. This bipartisan legislation will give them that option, and I believe this is an important step forward given the role that members of the National Guard and reserves play in keeping our state safe, healthy, and strong." 

The Shaheen-Pappas legislation prohibits the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from imposing restrictions on grants to state veterans cemeteries that bar internment of many Guard members and Reservists. Specifically, the Secretary could not prohibit funds from being used to inter any member of a reserve component of the Armed Forces whose service was terminated honorably, any member of the Army or Air National Guard whose service was terminated honorably, or any member of the ROTC whose death occurs while a member of the ROTC and the spouses of those members. This bill allows states veterans cemeteries to make their own decisions on burial eligibility.