Ahead of Memorial Day, Tester & Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Veterans Cemetery Grants Improvement Act
Bipartisan bill would increase VA funding to help states cover costs of operating and maintaining veteran cemeteries
Ahead of Memorial Day, Senate Veterans' Affairs Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is introducing bipartisan legislation with Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to help states cover the increasing costs of operating and maintaining veteran cemeteries.
Under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is authorized to award a maximum of $5 million for Operations and Maintenance Program grant applications per fiscal year-funding used to cover costs associated with upkeep of veterans interred in state cemeteries. The Veterans Cemetery Grants Improvement Act would increase VA's funding cap from $5 million to $10 million annually to better assist states, territories and tribal governments in covering the increasing costs of operating and maintaining state-run veteran cemeteries.
"As more veterans choose to be buried closer to home, we have a responsibility to ensure VA has the resources to better assist state cemeteries in honoring that request," said Ranking Member Tester. "Our bipartisan bill will help cemeteries like Eastern Montana State Veterans Cemetery-and others across the country-in covering costs associated with maintenance and upkeep of these sacred sites for veterans and their families. I'll continue to work to secure additional funding for state cemeteries, so we can properly honor those who fought to protect this country."
"Veterans cemeteries serve as more than a final resting place for our nation's veterans, they are a place for all Americans to honor those who served," said Senator Rounds. "Our legislation would increase the amount of grants that can be awarded each year so cemeteries can keep up with the rising cost of maintenance."
"We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid," said Senator Reed. "Veteran cemeteries are hallowed grounds that reflect our commitment to all who served. This legislation would help provide a small, much needed down payment toward helping veteran cemeteries nationwide with appropriate maintenance and upkeep."
"Veterans cemeteries in North Dakota and across the country provide our nation's heroes with a dignified final resting place where family and loved ones can pay their respects," said Senator Hoeven. "This bipartisan legislation will provide the VA with additional resources to help with the operation and maintenance of state veteran cemeteries, ensuring that our nation's veterans are able to be laid to rest with honor closer to home."
This legislation is supported by Veterans Service Organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and AMVETS.
"Many veterans choose interment in their local state or tribal cemeteries," said VFW Associate Director Matthew Doyle. "The VFW is proud to support the Veterans Cemetery Grants Improvement Act of 2020, which would increase the maximum amount of grants made by the Department of Veterans Affairs to state and tribal organizations from $5 million to $10 million for maintaining veterans' cemeteries."
"AMVETS is supportive of this critical legislation that will increase available funding for state and tribal cemeteries," said AMVETS Executive Director Joe Chenelly. "Large sections of the United States are not served with a VA National Cemetery, including nearly the entirety of the Intermountain West. Ensuring adequate funding for state and tribal run veteran cemeteries is the right thing to do for our Nation's veterans and we are thankful for Senator Tester's advocacy on this issue."
A copy of the bill can be found HERE.