WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), issued the following statement on the passage of his Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“This is the absolute right thing to do. The brave members of the Reserve and National Guard are heroes who always step up to the plate when duty calls. This new law will ensure state veterans’ cemeteries will not be punished by Washington bureaucrats if they choose to bury these men and women,” said Senator Cramer.
“State veterans cemeteries, including ours in North Dakota, allow servicemembers to be laid to rest with honor closer to their homes and loved ones,” said Senator Hoeven. “Once signed into law, our bill will allow National Guard and Reserve members to be buried in state veterans cemeteries without the cemetery losing access to VA grants. Our bill is one important way to honor their service, and comes as part of our broader efforts to ensure they receive the recognition and benefits that they have earned through their vital contributions to the security of our nation.”
Earlier this week, Senator Cramer penned an op-ed in the Southern Illinoisan calling on Congress to pass his bill to allow state veterans’ cemeteries to bury Guard and Reservists without penalty from the federal government. As a member of SVAC, Senator Cramer shepherded the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act through committee in December, and it passed unanimously out of the Senate on March 7, 2022.
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. The Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act corrects this 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 VA calling on the Department to implement these reforms to the Veterans Cemetery Grants Program.
The bill received a legislative hearing in SVAC last month and brought Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs (USMA) Matthew Quinn to Fargo to hear directly from North Dakotans on this issue.
At a SVAC hearing in December, VA Secretary Denis McDonough issued his support for the bill.
In January, Senators Cramer, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter urging Senate and House leadership to include the bill in a bipartisan, bicameral package to address the utmost concerns of our nation’s veterans and their families.
The Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act would:
- Ensure 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 states so choose.
Click here to read the bill.