Tester, Boozman Introduce Legislation to Help State Cemeteries Meet Federal Veteran Burial Standards

Bipartisan bill covers travel costs for specialized training for cemetery personnel

(U.S. Senate)- U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) today introduced legislation to improve access to specialized training that would ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) grant-funded cemeteries meet and maintain the National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) National Shrine Commitment. 

The NCA sets standards for maintaining VA national cemeteries. Although state and tribal cemeteries are held to the same benchmarks and measures, they often fall short of meeting the requirements due to a lack of adequate training. While the NCA offers training to state VA cemetery employees at no cost to the state, the VA does not currently cover travel costs for the training of these individuals. The cost of travel prevents some organizations from sending representatives to learn how to uphold VA’s high standards.

This legislation adds travel for training as an allowable expense to already existing grant programs established for the maintenance and operation of state and tribal veteran cemeteries.

“We owe it to our veterans and their families to ensure that our state and tribal cemeteries are properly cared for,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “By helping cemetery personnel get the proper, specialized training they need, we are honoring the courageous role men and women played in preserving our freedom and protecting this country.”   

“Making it easier for cemetery personnel to learn the procedures and nationwide standards is commonsense so we can honor the men and women who served our country in uniform with the tribute they deserve,” Boozman said.

To help states and tribal organizations meet the VA’s high standard for veteran memorial benefits, NCA’s National Training Center (NTC) in St. Louis, Missouri allows state and tribal employees to attend training provided to national cemetery employees. This training allows cemetery employees to learn procedures such as those required for setting headstones and markers in accordance with National Shrine Commitment standards, ensuring proper height and alignment of headstones. 

In 2015, the VA awarded Montana's Crow Tribe more than $1.2 million to establish the Apsaalooke Veterans Cemetery in Crow Agency. The grant award was used to fund the construction of a three acre development with over 200 burial spots for Crow veterans and their families.

"I would like to thank Senator Tester, for introducing a bill for much needed training for maintenance of Veterans Cemeteries. Our Apsaalooke Veterans Cemetery would greatly benefit," said Crow Tribe Secretary Rudolph Old Crow.