Friday, May 2, 2008

Supporting our Nation's Veterans

Last week, I joined U.S. Senator Robert Menendez in supporting our nation’s veterans by pushing legislation which would expand the federal burial benefit to assist veterans’ family members buried in state veterans’ cemeteries. I introduced this bill in November of last year and Sen. Menendez recently introduced it in the Senate.

I believe that this legislation is a commonsense approach to supporting our veterans and addressing their needs. This year, our nation will lay to rest military personnel who have risked their lives for our country and beliefs. The families of these brave individuals should be able to choose their burial based on location, convenience, and peace of mind, not economics.

My bill would enable veterans to receive burial benefits to cover the veteran’s spouse and other eligible dependents when buried in state veteran’s cemeteries. Currently, burial benefits are available for a veteran when he or she is buried in either a federal or state veteran’s cemetery. A veteran’s spouse and dependents are eligible for benefits only when they are buried with the veteran in a federal cemetery. This disparity forces a veteran’s family to bear the burden of financing the burial themselves if they want to keep the family together in a state cemetery. Given that state veterans cemetery space is more abundant than federal veterans cemetery space, and that federal cemeteries are often more regional and less convenient to remote areas of the country, families are frequently left without real options.

Rep. Scott Garrett represents the 5th district of New Jersey.