CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, December 11, 2013, the House will consider S. 1471, the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act, under a suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced by Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) on August 1, 2013, where it passed in the Senate by unanimous consent. The bill was then reported to the House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services.
S. 1471 authorizes “appropriate federal official” (either the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or the Secretary of the Army) to reconsider a decision to inter the remains or honor the memory of a person in the National Cemetery Administration or buried in Arlington National Cemetery if the official finds, based upon a showing of clear and convincing evidence, that the person had committed a Federal or State capital crime but had not been convicted of the crime by reason of such person not being available for trial due to death or flight to avoid prosecution.
Moreover, this legislation would require the appropriate federal official, after finding that the person had committed but was not convicted of a crime, to provide a notice to the individual’s next-of-kin (or other authorized person), and allows that person 60 days to file a notice of disagreement. Once a final decision is made, this legislation authorizes the appropriate federal official to disinter the remains of the individual in question and remove any memorial headstone or marker placed to honor the memory of that person.
Finally, this legislation would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to disinter the remains of Michael LaShawn Anderson from Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Michigan, and directs the Secretary to notify his next-of-kin of the impending disinterment of his remains.
On May 30, 2012, Michael LaShawn Anderson went on a shooting spree at an Indianapolis apartment complex, injuring three and taking the life of Alicia Dawn Koehl, a wife and mother of two, before taking his own life. However, apparently unaware of the circumstances surrounding his death, Anderson was given a burial with full military honors on June 6, 2012. Currently, federal law prohibits persons who have committed a Federal or State capital crime but “has not been convicted of such crime by reason of such person not being available for trial due to death or flight to avoid prosecution,” from being buried in Arlington National Cemetery or any Cemetery under the control of the National Cemetery Administration. Upon hearing that Anderson was buried in a national cemetery, the Koehl family requested that the VA disinter his remains, however, no action has been taken because the VA does not believe it has the legal authority to do so. This bill would explicitly provide the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of the Army the authority to do so.
A formal CBO score is unavailable, but no cost is expected.
For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.