Sen. Peters introduces bill to improve burial services for veterans

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today announced that are introducing bipartisan legislation to improve burial services for our nation’s veterans by increasing funeral benefits for eligible veterans. The Burial Rights for America’s Veterans’ Efforts (BRAVE) Act would update the current funeral and burial benefit system to ensure that all non-service connected deaths are treated equally, regardless of where the veteran passes away. Veterans with no next of kin that pass away in a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility are currently afforded greater funds to cover the costs of their funerals and burials than veterans who pass away in a private home or other facility.

“Our brave men and women in uniform have sacrificed so much in defense of our nation, and we owe it to them to ensure they receive the benefits they earned through their service, including a dignified burial,” said Senator Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to honor our nation’s heroes by making commonsense updates to veterans’ funeral benefits to help ensure every veteran has a proper funeral and burial, no matter the circumstances at the end of their lives.”

“Our veterans have sacrificed so much defending our country, and we owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never fully repay,” said Senator Rubio. “They are entitled to a proper funeral and burial no matter where they pass away. This bipartisan legislation will ensure we honor all of America’s heroes properly, with the highest honors and respect.”

“On behalf of the 20,000 members of the National Funeral Directors Association, I commend Senators Peters and Rubio for introducing this bill in the Senate,” said National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) CEO Christine Pepper, CAE. “Every day, in cities and towns across America, our members are helping families honor the lives of our nation’s veterans. Passing this bill will help ensure that veterans can be buried or interred with the honor and dignity befitting their sacrifice. NFDA and its members fully support this bipartisan legislation and thank Senator Peters and Senator Rubio for their support of veterans.”

“Nothing is more devastating for a family than the inability to properly lay to rest a veteran,” said John Rowan, President of Vietnam Veterans of America. “We are thankful that Senator Peters and Senator Rubio for introducing the BRAVE Act to help alleviate this pain.”

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars supports the BRAVE Act of 2017, which would increase funeral and burial benefits for eligible veterans. Currently, the cost of funeral expenses in the private sector have increased nearly seven times over since 2001 and the current VA benefit is $2,000 for a service connected death, and $300 burial and $749 plot allowance for a qualifying non-service connected death. These allowances are well below the cost in the private sector. The VFW thanks Senator Peters and Senator Rubio for their leadership on this issue and continued dedication to veterans,” said VFW Adjutant General Robert E. Wallace.

“On behalf of the two million members of The American Legion, we are pleased to support the Burial Rights for America’s Veterans’ Efforts (BRAVE) Act, as currently written, that would increase the funeral and burial benefits for non-service-connected deaths of veterans with no next of kin,” said Charles E. Schmidt, National Commander of The American Legion. “We believe that all veterans who have honorably served our nation should be provided adequate funeral benefits and that those benefits should be indexed for inflation. It is our nation’s responsibility to ensure that the families and loved ones of our veterans are financially supported in their time of mourning. We thank Senator Peters and Senator Rubio for their leadership on this important legislation.”

Currently, the VA burial benefit provides:

-$300 for non-service-connected deaths and for veterans who have passed without a next-of-kin;

-$749 if a veteran passes away in a VA facility, and;

-$2,000 if a veteran passes away from a service-connected disability.

The BRAVE Act will increase the $300 for non-service connected deaths to $749 to equal the benefit received if a veteran passes away in a VA facility. The legislation additionally indexes for inflation both the non-service and service-related passing funeral benefits, thereby eliminating the need for Congress to make further readjustments.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, national median cost of a funeral in 2015 was $7,181 – not including a vault, which is typically required by most cemeteries. Over the past decade, the median cost of an adult funeral in the United States has increased 28.6 percent and has not kept up with the pace of inflation. For instance, in 1973, the benefit for a veteran with no next-of-kin and a non-service connected death would have been 22 percent of the national average, versus the 2 percent it covers today.