CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Sunday, December 30, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider S. 3202, the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2012, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. The bill was introduced on May 17, 2012, by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and approved in the Senate by Unanimous Consent on December 19, 2012.
S. 3202 would authorize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to furnish a casket or urn to a deceased veteran when VA is unable to identify the veteran’s next-of-kin and determines that sufficient resources are not otherwise available to furnish a casket or urn for burial in a national cemetery.
CEMETERY MATTERS: The bill would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to furnish a casket or urn for a deceased veteran with no known living kin.
VETERANS FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE PROTECTION: Under the bill, in cases where family or the next of kin of a deceased veteran can be identified, the bill would require the VA to ensure that the expressed wishes of the next of kin are met with regards to memorial service, funeral or interment at a national cemetery.
IMPROVED COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS AND MEDICAL EXAMINERS AND FUNERAL DIRECTORS: The bill would require the VA to obtain information from the relevant medical examiner, funeral director, service group or other entity regarding the steps taken to determine if the deceased has no next of kin.
IDENTIFICATION AND BURIAL OF UNCLAIMED OR ABANDONED HUMAN REMAINS: The VA would be required to cooperate with veterans service organizations to assist entities in possession of unclaimed or abandoned remains of veterans, with the department authorized to determine whether such remains are eligible for burial in a national cemetery.
RESTORATION, OPERATION, AND MAINTENANCE OF CLARK VETERANS CEMETERY BY AMERICAN BATTLE MONUMENTS COMMISSION: The bill would authorizes the appropriation of $5 million for site preparation and construction at the Clark Veterans Cemetery located in the Philippines. The bill would direct the American Battle Monuments Commission to restore and operate the cemetery once a cooperative agreement is reached with the government of the Philippines.
ESTABLISHMENT OF OPEN BURN PIT REGISTRY: The bill would require the VA to establish an open burn pit registry for members of the armed forces who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals emanating from open burn pits. The department would be required to develop materials to notify individuals about the registry and to provide updates to registered individuals regarding developments in treatments for health conditions caused by exposure to burn pits. These provisions are intended to address health complications encountered by veterans returning from the Middle East, where open burn pits have been used to dispose of a wide variety of waste materials.
TRANSPORTATION OF BENEFICIARIES TO AND FROM FACILITIES OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: The bill would authorize the VA to transport individuals to or from a department facility or other location in connection with required vocational, rehabilitation or counseling activities, or for the purpose of medical exams, treatments and care.
EXTENSION OF REDUCED PENSION FOR CERTAIN VETERANS COVERED BY MEDICAID PLANS FOR SERVICES FURNISHED BY NURSING FACILITIES: The bill would offset the cost of the bill by extending, the existing authority of the VA to limit pension benefits for veterans who reside in Medicaid-funded nursing homes through November 30, 2016. That authority is currently scheduled to expire two months earlier, on September 30, 2016.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing S. 3202 would reduce the deficit by $35 million over ten years.