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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 5822, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. BERKLEY. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill. I especially want to thank Chairman Edwards and Ranking Member Wamp for providing the resources our Nation's veterans desperately need and for providing additional funding for FY2012. This advanced funding helps the VA avoid disruption of critical programs. We must take care of our brave men and women who serve this country, and this funding goes a long way to address many of their needs.

I also want to thank the chairman and ranking member for including report language on veterans' burial benefits. I am deeply concerned about the eroding value of the plot allowance and burial benefits provided to our Nation's veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Because the benefits are not indexed to inflation, their value continues to diminish with each passing year. As a result, families and State veterans' cemeteries have been left to cover the increasing costs.

In FY09, the subcommittee included my report language urging the VA to assess the viability of increasing the plot allowance and burial benefits to cover the same percentage of veterans' burial benefits that they covered in 1973, when they were first initiated. The Department of Veterans Affairs has still not yet heeded our recommendations. I'm glad the subcommittee recognizes the importance of the issue and has again included the burial benefits report language.

However, we need to move on this, and I think having it included once again is a step in reminding the VA that this is an important issue.

This Congress I have reintroduced the Veterans' Burial Benefits Improvement Act, H.R. 4045. This bill would increase the plot allowance from $300 to $745 for the burial costs of veterans who are buried in a State veterans' cemetery or a private cemetery; increase burial allowance benefits from $2,000 to $4,100 for veterans who die as a result of service-connected injuries and are buried in a national cemetery; increase the burial allowance from $300 to $1,270 for a veteran who wishes to be buried in a national veterans' cemetery and whose cause of death is not service-connected.

I urge my colleagues to become a cosponsor of this important piece of legislation.

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