Shaheen Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill to Open Eligibility for Burial in State Veterans Cemeteries to All Service Members

June 17, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation 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 terminated under honorable conditions. Senators John Hoeven (R-ND), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) are cosponsors of the bill in the Senate.

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. Shaheen and Pappas’ bipartisan bill, 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.

“Guard members and Reservists sign up to serve like all of their fellow service members across the military branches. It’s unacceptable that the VA currently prohibits many of them from being buried in a state veterans cemetery. Service on behalf of our nation should be rewarded with honorable burials – period,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to make sure that citizens who volunteer in defense of our nation are rightfully honored by state veterans cemeteries. I’ll continue to be a vocal advocate for New Hampshire’s veterans in the Senate, ensuring they receive the benefits and recognition they deserve after putting their lives on the line for our country.”

“Members of the North Dakota National Guard and Reserve are some the finest in our nation’s military. This bipartisan legislation is about ensuring all veterans, regardless of status, receive the recognition they have earned,” said Senator Hoeven. “It’s important these servicemembers are laid to rest with honor while being close to home for family and loved ones to pay their respects.”

“National Guardsmen and Reservists take the same oath to defend this country as their Active Duty counterparts do, and we must make sure that they receive the respect and reverence that they deserve,” said Senator Hassan. “It makes no sense that state veterans cemeteries are, as a condition of receiving federal money for improvements, barred from interring many National Guard members and Reservists.  This bipartisan bill would open eligibility for burial in state veterans cemeteries for all service members, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this long overdue bill.”

“Guardsmen and Reservists sign up to risk their lives in defense of our freedoms. There is no reason to deem them as unworthy of being buried in a veterans cemetery after their death,” said Senator Cramer. “Our legislation would ensure these heroes receive proper recognition for their sacrifice and service.”

First introduced in 2020, the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act was updated this year 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. 

Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01), a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is leading the legislation in the House, which is cosponsored by Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Steven Palazzo (MS-04). 

Full text of the bill is available here

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