Isakson, Scott Bill to Provide Equal Burial Benefits for Veterans Heads to President’s Desk

Legislation provides grave liners at no cost for veterans buried at national park cemeteries

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded Senate passage of the Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act, legislation he introduced along with U.S. Representative Austin Scott, R-Ga.-08, to require the U.S. Department of the Interior to provide grave liners for veterans buried in cemeteries under the control of the National Park Service. In Georgia, this would include Andersonville National Cemetery.

Following today’s Senate passage, the measure, H.R.4910, now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law. It passed the House of Representatives on Monday, May 7.

“With this bill, we are seeing to it that all veterans and their families are receiving the burial benefits they have earned regardless of where they are laid to rest,” said Isakson. “I look forward to the president signing it into law very soon.”

“I applaud the Senate for passing this important piece of legislation and thank Sen. Isakson for his support and dedication in the coordinated push to get H.R.4910 through the Senate, as well as the support of Congressman Sanford Bishop,” said Scott.  “I look forward to President Trump signing this into law so that we can ensure that our veterans and their families are provided appropriate benefits in all of our federal cemeteries.”

Current law requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide an outer burial receptacle, more commonly called a grave liner, to a veteran buried in a national cemetery under the control of the National Cemetery Administration, a branch of the VA. Additionally, the VA can provide a reimbursement if the family chooses to purchase one in lieu of a government-furnished grave liner.

National Park Service cemeteries are not currently covered by this statute, and neither the VA nor the National Park Service is able to provide this benefit for veterans buried in those cemeteries.

The Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act amends the law to require the Department of Interior to provide an outer burial receptacle for each new veteran’s grave in a national cemetery under the control of the National Park Service. This bill also provides for the reimbursement of a veteran’s survivors who provide a privately purchased outer burial receptacle for use in a National Park Service cemetery.

Of the 14 national cemeteries controlled by the National Park Service, two are still open for burials: Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Tennessee.

A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.

The Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Dean Heller, R-Nev., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

U.S. Congressman Austin Scott, R-Ga.-08, introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives with Representatives Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.-02, Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.-07, Paul Cook, R-Calif.-08, Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.-04, Neal Dunn, R-Fla.-02, Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.-03, Karen Handel, R-Ga.-06, Walter Jones, R-N.C.-03, Steve Scalise, R-La.-01, Mac Thornberry, R-Texas-13, and Michael Turner, R-Ohio-10, on Jan. 30, 2018.

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The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.