WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke at a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing this week in support of bipartisan legislation he introduced to increase funeral benefits for eligible veterans. The Burial Rights for America’s Veterans’ Efforts (BRAVE) Act updates the current benefit system to treat all non-service connected deaths equally, regardless of where the veteran passes away. Currently, eligible veterans who pass away at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility receive more funds to cover funeral and burial costs than those who pass away in a private home or other facility. At the hearing, the VA Undersecretary for Benefits, Dr. Paul Lawrence, expressed the VA’s support for Peters’ bill.
Click here for a video of Peters’ remarks.
Below is a transcript:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to all my colleagues for your service on this committee.
“I certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak in support of S. 1596, which is entitled the BRAVE Act.
“I was proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Rubio.
“The BRAVE Act is also bicameral piece of legislation and I certainly appreciate the leadership of Representative Duncan Hunter who’s shepherding this bill in the House of Representatives.
“Our brave men and women in uniform have sacrificed so much in the defense of our nation.
“We owe it to them to ensure they receive the benefits that they earned through their service, including a dignified burial.
“Unfortunately, current VA burial benefits are woefully insufficient.
“The national median cost of a funeral in 2017 was $8,755.
“However, the VA burial benefits provide a mere $2000 for service-connected deaths – $762 non-service-connected deaths for veterans who pass away in a VA facility – and $300 for all non-service-connected deaths.
“It is clear that these benefits have not kept pace with the rising cost of funeral and burial expenses, and that is why Senator Rubio and I introduced the BRAVE Act.
“The BRAVE Act will make funeral benefits for non-service connected deaths the same – regardless of where the veteran passes away.
“The legislation also ensures that all burial benefits are indexed for inflation – eliminating the need for Congress to make further readjustments and providing future generations of our nation’s veterans with the dignified burial that they have earned through their service.
“The BRAVE Act enjoys support from organizations including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, the National Funeral Directors Association, the Association of the United States Navy, and the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.
“I believe we should honor our nation’s heroes by making commonsense updates to VA burial benefits – ensuring that every veteran has a proper funeral and burial, no matter the circumstances at the end of their lives.
“Thank you again, Mr. Chairman and the committee, for the opportunity to speak today and I look forward to working with you as you pass this important legislation.”