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Witness Testimony of Mr. Raymond C. Kelley, American Veterans (AMVETS), Legislative Director

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for providing AMVETS (American Veterans) the opportunity to testify regarding pending legislation on minority veterans, memorial affairs, and disability pension benefits.

Over the past twelve years, the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans with their unique insight has provided timely, accurate information and recommendations on potential barriers, which are unintentionally in place, often causing minority veterans a lower quality of care. Although, these barriers are not limited to minorities, the advisory committee’s perspective provides an ability to identify the root of the problem and submit recommendations which often develop into legislative proposals and inevitably helps all veterans. AMVETS wholly supports H.R. 674’s repeal of its sunset provision, extending the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans. 

Mr. Chairman, it should be at the root of our nation’s conscience to honor those servicemembers who are willing to stand in harm’s way at our government’s request, and the highest respect we can pay is to honor the lives of our veterans after they have passed away.  H.R. 1273, H.R. 2696, and H.R. 2346 promote this honor as well as offset the cost incurred by the families when a loved one passes on. AMVETS supports H.R. 1273 in restoring veterans’ plot allowance eligibility and headstone or marker allowance, but would encourage an amendment to include all eligible veterans, not just veterans who have served during wartime. AMVETS also supports the increase in burial assistance from $300 to $400; however, Mr. Chairman, the amount should be increased to $745. This increased amount would make current payments proportionally equal to the amount paid when this benefit was initially provided in 1973. AMVETS wholly supports H.R. 2346 as it assists VA in meeting its goal of providing 85% of veterans with burial options within 75 miles of their residence. 

AMVETS supports H.R. 1900 and H.R. 1901 as they update and clarify veterans who are eligible for pension benefits. In the same light, Mr. Chairman, AMVETS supports H.R. 2697; however, due to Title 38’s definition of “veteran,” if H. R. 1315 is not passed, administrative amendments may need to be enacted to include “members of the Armed Forces” throughout Chapter 21, Title 38, to clarify servicemembers’ eligibility for adaptive housing assistance which this resolution will insure.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.