Rep. Scott Bill to Close Gap in Burial Benefits for Veterans Passes House
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08) released the below statement upon his bill, the Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act (H.R. 4910), passing the House of Representatives by a vote of 388 to 0. H.R. 4910 amends the law to require the Department of Interior to provide an outer burial receptacle for each new veteran’s grave in a national cemetery under the control of the National Park Service (NPS). This bill also provides for the reimbursement of a veteran’s survivors who provide a privately purchased outer burial receptacle for use in a NPS-managed cemetery. In Georgia, this would include Andersonville National Cemetery in Andersonville.
“As Members of Congress, it is our duty to provide for not only our active duty service members and veterans, but also our military families, and I am very pleased that today the House has passed a commonsense piece of legislation aimed at closing a critical gap in veterans burial benefits that has placed an undue burden on families for far too long,” said Rep. Scott.
“As a grateful nation, we have a duty to give our fallen heroes the honor and respect they deserve, regardless of where they are laid to rest,” said House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (TN-01). “Currently, families who choose for their loved one to be buried in a veterans cemetery controlled by the National Parks Service – like the Andrew Johnson Cemetery in my district - are unable to receive an outer burial receptacle at no cost like they would in a VA-managed cemetery. I’m grateful to Rep. Scott for his leadership on this important legislation to extend this burial benefit to veterans interred in an NPS cemetery, and I look forward to working with him to address the issue.”
Current law requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide an outer burial receptacle to a veteran buried in a national cemetery under the control of the National Cemetery Administration, a branch of the VA. Additionally, the VA can provide a reimbursement if the family chooses to purchase one in lieu of a government-furnished grave liner. NPS-managed cemeteries however are not currently covered by this statute and neither the VA nor the NPS is able provide this benefit for veterans buried in those cemeteries.
Of the 14 national cemeteries controlled by the NPS, two are still active: Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Tennessee.
In the House, cosponsors of Rep. Scott’s legislation include U.S. Representatives Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Marsha Blackburn (TN-07), Paul Cook (CA-08), Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), Neal Dunn (FL-02), Drew Ferguson (GA-03), Karen Handel (GA-06), Walter B. Jones (N.C.-03), Steve Scalise (LA-01), Mac Thornberry (TX-13), and Mike Turner (OH-10).
Additionally, Rep. Scott’s bill is supported by outside veterans groups including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Similar legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, passed the U.S. Senate on March 1, 2018.