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Cotton Statement on House Passage of the Charles Duncan Buried with Honor Act

December 6, 2016

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353

Washington, D.C.- Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today released the following statement after the House unanimously passed the Charles Duncan Buried with Honor Act.

"Tonight the Charles Duncan Buried with Honor Act is on it's way to the President's desk to be signed into law. Soon hundreds of veterans who honorably served our country will have access to expanded burial options from the VA-ensuring they can be laid to rest in the cemetery of their choice, surrounded by loved ones. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House and the Senate for their support of this important legislation. And I'm grateful to the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs for bringing this matter to my attention. Charles Duncan wasn't the first veteran in this position, but this change will help ensure that he is one of the last."

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.

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 a small gap in the law 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."