Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Witness Testimony of The Honorable Al Green, U.S. House of Representatives
Thank you Chairman Runyan and Ranking Member Titus for holding this hearing today and providing me with the opportunity to testify on H.R. 3876, the Burial with Dignity for Heroes Act of 2014.
Many veterans make the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of United States of America and this should never be overlooked. Those who serve their country honorably should be properly memorialized at the time of their death. Unfortunately, too many homeless veterans are not presented with such an opportunity. Often, homeless veterans are buried without a proper funeral service because their families, or lack thereof, do not have the funding to cover the burial costs.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides eligible homeless veterans with the opening and closing of the gravesite, a grave liner, a headstone or maker, and a graveside ceremony. However, the preparation of the body, transportation, clothing, casket and coordination of the funeral service are necessary services that the VA is unable to provide. At this time, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) does not differentiate between claimed and unclaimed remains; therefore, there is not a definite way to determine the number of homeless veterans that are laid to rest each year without a proper burial.
I, along with my colleague Congresswoman Corrine Brown, have introduced H.R. 3876, the Burial with Dignity for Heroes Act of 2014, which would amend title 38 of the United States Code to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out a program to make grants to eligible entities to provide for the cost of burials for eligible homeless veterans. Outside entities will submit applications to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs who will determine which entities are eligible. This practical legislation would help eliminate the possibility of a hero not receiving a proper military funeral.
H.R. 3876 would provide for an eligible veteran to be laid to rest in a National Cemetery or a local cemetery. An eligible veteran is a deceased former service member:
- Who is homeless,
- Who is eligible to be buried in a National Cemetery,
- Who was not convicted of a capital crime,
- Who was not dishonorably discharged, and
- Who the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines has no next of kin.
I am confident this legislation will help to ensure that all homeless veterans receive a burial with dignity.
Our nation’s heroes deserve funeral services with military honors. The Burial with Dignity for Heroes Act of 2014 intends to ensure that all eligible veterans, regardless of their financial status at the time of their death, will be properly honored, and does so without appropriating any additional federal dollars.
Thank you again for the opportunity to present my testimony before this subcommittee.
I yield back the balance of my time.