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Peters, Rubio Reintroduce Legislation to Improve Burial Services for Veterans

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today announced that they are reintroducing bipartisan legislation to improve burial services for our nation’s veterans by increasing funeral benefits offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Burial Rights for America’s Veterans’ Efforts (BRAVE) Act would update the current funeral and burial benefit system to treat all non-service connected deaths equally, regardless of where the veteran passes away. Veterans with no next of kin that pass away in a VA facility are currently provided greater funds to cover the costs of their funerals and burials than veterans who pass away in their home or another medical facility.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that our brave men and women who have sacrificed so much to defend our way of life receive the benefits they earned through their service, including a dignified burial,” said Senator Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The current veterans funeral benefits system is inefficient and outdated. This legislation will not only update these benefits, but also help ensure that our nation’s heroes have the funeral and burial they and their families deserve.”

“We will never be able to fully repay our veterans who have sacrificed so much defending our country, but we can ensure they have a proper funeral and burial no matter where they pass away,” Rubio said. “I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation to ensure we properly honor all of America’s heroes with the honor and respect they deserve.”

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars supports the BRAVE Act of 2019, which would increase funeral and burial benefits for eligible veterans,” said Carlos Fuentes VFW’s Director of the National Legislative Service. “The current allowances are well below the cost in the private sector. The VFW thanks Senator Peters and Senator Rubio for their leadership on this issue and continued dedication to veterans.”

“On behalf of the two million members of The American Legion, we are pleased to support the Burial Rights for America’s Veterans’ Efforts (BRAVE) Act, as currently written, that would increase the funeral and burial benefits for non-service-connected deaths of veterans with no next of kin,” said Brett P. Reistad, National Commander of The American Legion. “We believe that all veterans who have honorably served our nation should be provided adequate funeral benefits and that those benefits should be indexed for inflation. It is our nation’s responsibility to ensure that the families and loved ones of our veterans are financially supported in their time of mourning. We thank Senator Peters and Senator Rubio for their leadership on this important legislation.”

“On behalf of the more than 20,000 members of the National Funeral Directors Association, I applaud Senators Peters and Rubio for introducing this bill,” said Christine Pepper, CAE, CEO of the National Funeral Directors Association. “As a nation, we owe so much to our veterans. The BRAVE Act will go a long way to helping ensure families can meaningfully commemorate the life of a veteran who has died; it is the least we can do as a grateful nation.”

“Funeral directors like me assist families with paying tribute to veterans who honorably served our country,” said Chuck Bowman, CMSP, CFSP, CCO, President of the National Funeral Directors Association. “Passing the BRAVE Act will make certain all veterans are treated equally and will help ensure they can be buried in a manner befitting their sacrifice. My National Funeral Directors Association colleagues and I whole heartedly support this bipartisan legislation.”

“The Association of the United States Navy pledges its support for the Burial Rights for America's Veterans' Efforts (BRAVE) Act,” said RADM Christopher Cole (USN, Ret.), Chief Executive Officer, Association of the United States Navy. “This bill would increase funding through the Department of Veterans Affairs for burials and funerals of non-service veteran deaths."

"The BRAVE Act goes a long way to ensure that our veterans are treated as our greatest national treasures," said John Yori, President, United Soldiers and Sailors of America. "It is vitally important that our nation provide a proper, dignified burial for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. It is also of paramount importance that veterans who leave this earth without benefit of next of kin, be ensured the same, high standard of respect. Last year, my organization stepped in to claim the mortal remans of a US Navy veteran who died without next of kin. We could not fathom the idea that his body would be sent to the Maryland Anatomy Board and then discarded, he deserved a better ending. We were honored to be able to provide him with a dignified military ceremony, service and internment in a veteran cemetery. The BRAVE Act will help provide the funding necessary to ensure our nation keeps its promises to our veterans, and their families."

“On behalf of DAV and our over one million members, we are pleased to support the Burial Rights for America’s Veterans’ Efforts Act of 2019,” said Joy J. Ilem, National Legislative Director, DAV (Disabled Americans Veterans). “We appreciate Senator Peters’ continued efforts on behalf of our nation’s injured and ill veterans and their families, and we look forward to working with him on enacting this bipartisan legislation into law.”

“AMVETS is pleased to support the BRAVE Act. By providing enhanced and equitable financial support to help cover the costs of burial expenses, the BRAVE Act not only helps ensure those who defended our nation are treated with dignity, but their family members are not subjected to undue financial hardship,” said Rege Riley, AMVETS National Commander. “AMVETS looks forward to working with Senator Peters to aid in passing this important legislation.”

Currently, the VA burial benefit provides:

  • $300 for non-service-connected deaths (plus a $780 plot-interment allowance);
  • $780 if a veteran passes away in a VA facility (plus a $780 plot-interment allowance), and;
  • $2,000 if a veteran passes away from a service-connected disability.

The BRAVE Act will increase the $300 for non-service connected deaths to $780 to equal the benefit received if a veteran passes away in a VA facility. The legislation additionally indexes for inflation both the non-service and service-related passing funeral benefits, thereby eliminating the need for Congress to make further readjustments.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, national median cost of a funeral in 2015 was $7,181 - not including a vault, which is typically required by most cemeteries. Over the past decade, the median cost of an adult funeral in the United States has increased 28.6 percent and has not kept up with the pace of inflation. For instance, in 1973, the benefit for a veteran with no next-of-kin and a non-service connected death would have been 22 percent of the national average, versus the 2 percent it covers today.

Peters has long been an advocate in Congress for Michigan’s servicemembers and veterans. In 2016, President Obama signed into law Peters’ bipartisan Fairness for Veterans amendment that allows veterans with a bad paper discharge resulting from behavior caused by PTSD to petition for an upgrade in their discharge status, which would grant them access to benefits such as VA home loans and educational grants provided by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.  Peters has also cosponsored legislation to extend care for Vietnam veterans and their descendants who are suffering from health complications due to exposure to Agent Orange.