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UPDATE: Shaheen’s Bipartisan Bill to Open Eligibility for Burial in State Veterans Cemeteries to All Service Members Clears Key Committee Hurdle

(Washington, DC) – Legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and cosponsored by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Hoeven (R-ND) 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 – passed a key committee hurdle. Senators Hassan and Cramer voted to pass the bill in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on which they serve. The bill will next move onto the Senate floor for consideration.

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. Earlier this year, the members sent a letter to the VA calling on the Department to implement these reforms to the Veterans Cemetery Grants Program.

“Every American who honorably served our country in the military should be eligible for burial in state veterans cemeteries beside their brothers and sisters in arms – this shouldn’t even be up for debate. I’m pleased to see the Senate take a critical step to make that a reality by advancing my bipartisan bill to extend equal burial rights to Guard Members and Reservists,” said Shaheen. “After volunteering in defense of our nation, all service members in New Hampshire and across the nation deserve to be rightfully honored by state veterans ceremonies. I look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of this long overdue bill soon.”

“I have the opportunity to sit on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and today the committee voted to move the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act out of committee and onto the Senate floor for consideration. The Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act ensures Guardsmen and Reservists have equal burial rights in state veterans cemeteries, as well as the children of those buried in a state veterans cemetery. At the heart of this bill is federalism. This is about deference to the states and giving them the flexibility to set their own standards without being penalized by the federal government. Guardsmen and Reservists sign up to risk their lives in order to protect the freedoms we enjoy in this country every single day. They deserve to be recognized for their service with a proper burial in veterans cemeteries after their death,” said Senator Cramer, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

"New Hampshire National Guard Members and Reservists swear to defend the Constitution and this country just like their Active Duty counterparts. That's why all National Guard Members and Reservists deserve eligibility for burial in state veterans cemeteries. I am glad that we passed this bipartisan legislation in the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and I will keep pushing to get this bill across the finish line," said Senator Hassan, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“State veterans cemeteries, including North Dakota’s, provide veterans more options to be laid to rest with honor, closer to home,” said Senator Hoeven. “Our legislation helps ensure more servicemembers and their families can choose this option, making it easier for loved ones to visit and pay their respects, without risking the federal funding that these cemeteries rely upon.”

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