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Cotton Introduces Legislation to Expand VA Cemetery Burial Options

June 20, 2016

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353

Washington, D.C.- Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced the Charles Duncan Buried with Honor Act, legislation that would expand the cemetery burial options offered by the VA to financially insolvent veterans. Specifically, this bill would allow veterans who could not otherwise afford services to be buried in the cemetery closest to their family and loved ones. The bill is named for Mr. Charles Duncan of Little Rock, Arkansas, who died last year. Due to financial hardship, Mr. Duncan's family had to rely on the VA for his casket and burial fees, but bureaucratic roadblocks meant he was only eligible for burial in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which is over 150 miles from his home. As a result, Mr. Duncan's adult daughter was unable to attend his funeral.

"Charles Duncan bravely served our country in uniform and when he passed away his burial should have reflected the sacrifice he made on behalf of our freedom," said Senator Cotton. "But once again, VA bureaucracy got in the way of truly helping our veterans. Regrettably, Charles isn't the only veteran in this position. We can and should do more to help make sure all veterans are laid to rest honorably, surrounded by their loved ones."

Background: Under current law, indigent veterans with no next-of-kin are eligible to reimbursement rates of $2,421 for caskets or $244 for urns when buried in a National Cemetery. However, if the survivors of the veteran need to take advantage of that benefit, the veteran is not eligible for burial in a state cemetery, even if that cemetery is geographically closer to the veteran's home or the homes of their loved ones. The Charles Duncan Veterans Memorial Act amends the Dignified Burial and other Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 (s. 3202) by expanding its scope to include state or tribal cemeteries for which the Department of the VA has provided a grant.