Senator Tester backs effort for proper funerals for veterans


Senator Jon Tester is making sure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is working with veterans groups to determine whether unidentified or abandoned remains are those of veterans eligible for burial at a National Cemetery.

When a veteran passes away without known next-of-kin, his or her remains are kept in storage at funeral homes or crematoriums without proper interment. It is estimated that there are nearly 15,000 unclaimed veterans' remains in the United States.

Tester's bipartisan Veterans Missing in America Act requires the VA to assist veterans service organizations in identifying eligible remains. The VA will then cover the burial cost at a National Cemetery if the eligible veteran does not have a next-of-kin and there are no available resources to cover burial and funeral expenses.

"These veterans made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and we owe them the dignity and respect they deserve," said Tester, Montana's only member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "This bill will ensure that eligible veterans who defended our freedoms are never forgotten."

Tester's bipartisan bill also directs the VA to establish a publicly accessible database of identified veterans and recognizes the work of the Missing in America Project.

The Missing in America Project, a veteran service volunteer program, works to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed remains of veterans by working with private, state and federal organizations.

Service members who die on active duty or veterans who were discharged under circumstances "other than dishonorable" are eligible to be buried in a National Cemetery.

Tester has met with numerous Montanans in support of the bipartisan bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio).