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Senate Unanimously Passes Senator Peters’ Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Burial Benefits for Military Families

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ (MI) bipartisan legislation to ensure military families can continue to be laid to rest together in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries.  

Under current law, in the tragic case of the spouse or child of an active duty servicemember predeceasing the servicemember, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has the authority to bury that servicemembers’ spouse or child at a VA national cemetery – where the servicemember will one day join their family member. But without Congress acting, the VA’s authority to provide this benefit for our nation’s military families will expire on October 1, 2024. Peters’ Keeping Military Families Together – which he introduced with U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) – would grant the VA permanent authority to bury spouses and dependent children of members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty at the time of their death. The bill also would give the VA permanent authority to furnish a memorial headstone or marker, in cases where remains are unavailable, for spouses and dependent children of active duty servicemembers.  

“Servicemembers and their families give more to our country than we can ever truly repay. We owe it to them, at the very least, to ensure they can remain together in their final resting place if that is what they wish,” said Senator Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m proud this bipartisan bill passed the Senate with unanimous support, and I’ll continue working to see it signed into law.” 

“During unfortunate times when a spouse or child passes away before the service member, it is paramount for provisions to exist that allow for a choice of final rest together at a VA National Cemetery,” said Quandrea Patterson, Associate Director of VFW Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. “The VFW thanks Senators Peters, Sullivan, Brown, and Cramer for this legislation that permanently seeks to keep military families together.”  

“We thank Senators Peters, Sullivan, Cramer, and Brown for leading this bipartisan bill and for their commitment to supporting our nation’s military families and servicemembers at every turn,” said Jack McManus, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). “Our brave men and women who served in uniform deserve the option to be buried alongside their families, including in the tragic case of a servicemembers’ family member predeceasing them. The Keeping Military Families Together Act protects that benefit.”  

“One of the most widely requested benefits that our nation provides to those who have served are those concerning burial. This honor is a final display of our country’s appreciation for the service and sacrifice of our veterans,” said Michael McLaughlin, Legislative Director, National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO). “Although there is no sunset of when a service member or veteran may receive this honor, there is, unfortunately, a shelf life for eligibility provided to loved ones for internment with their veteran in a national cemetery. The NACVSO supports Senator Peters’ bipartisan legislation that seeks to provide a continued and unified burial option for not only those who served our country, but also for their loved ones.” 

Senator Peters’ bill is also supported by the Paralyzed Veterans of America.   

As the son of a World War II veteran and a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Peters is committed to advocating for Michigan’s servicemembers, veterans, and military families, and fighting to ensure they receive the resources and benefits they have earned, including burial benefits. Last year, Peters reintroduced bipartisan legislation to expand Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) burial benefits eligibility to terminally ill veterans who pass away at a non-VA facility while receiving hospice care. The legislation, called Gerald’s Law Act, was named after late Michigan veteran Gerald “Jerry” Elliott of Kingsford who did not receive VA burial benefits since he passed away at home.