Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member, introduced legislation to help ensure every veteran receives a dignified burial. The Dignified Burial of Veterans Act of 2012 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. This bill would further require that VA report back to Congress on the industry standard for urns and caskets and whether burials at VA's national cemeteries are meeting that standard. Under current law, VA is not authorized to purchase a casket or urn for veterans who do not have a next-of-kin to provide one, or the resources to be buried in an appropriate manner.
Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr, joined by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), introduced this legislation after a veteran, with no known next-of-kin, was buried in a cardboard container at a VA National Cemetery in Florida. The exposed remains were discovered during a raise and realign project at the cemetery. The veteran's remains were later placed in a bag and reburied with what was left of the cardboard box.
"When America's heroes make a commitment to serve their country, we make a promise to care for them," said Chairman Murray. "That includes helping to provide them with a burial honoring their service. I was deeply disturbed when I heard this news. There is no reason why the remains of a veteran should ever be treated with this lack of dignity. I am pleased we are taking the appropriate steps to right this indescribable wrong."
"Those who have served our country in uniform deserve our honor, appreciation, and respect, and that responsibility does not end when they pass away," said Senator Burr. "My heart goes out to those affected by the problems at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. We must ensure that the remains of veterans and servicemembers are treated with dignity and respect and that the families of those who have passed away have no doubts as to the quality of the final resting place of their loved ones."
"All veterans deserve a dignified final resting place," said Senator Nelson. "A cardboard box certainly isn't one. That's why we've got to make sure this doesn't happen again."
"Those who serve our nation in uniform deserve our respect and support, from the moment they commit to serve through their deaths and even beyond as we honor their legacies," said Senator Rubio. "Providing dignified burials for veterans is a solemn pledge we must uphold. Cases like this are outrageous and need to be corrected so that no deceased veteran is ever dishonored in this way again."