Congress passed legislation last week that ensures every National Guardsman and Reservist is eligible to be buried in state veterans’ cemeteries — as long as their service was not terminated under dishonorable conditions.
The Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act was sent to the president, who is expected to sign it. The Department of Veterans Affairs supports it.
Currently, only certain service members who meet national eligibility standards are allowed to be buried in veterans’ cemeteries if that cemetery receives federal grant funding.
The legislation corrects that by prohibiting the VA from conditioning such grants on a cemetery’s compliance with existing national eligibility criteria for burial.
That criteria allows Guardsmen to be buried in a veterans’ cemetery only if they met their legal minimum active-duty service, died during training or as a result of injury or illness sustained during training, or served the 20 years required for retirement pay.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced the bill in the Senate. It was co-sponsored by Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
“This is the absolute right thing to do,” said Cramer in a statement issued Friday. "The brave members of the Reserve and National Guard are heroes who always step up to the plate when duty calls. This new law will ensure state veterans’ cemeteries will not be punished by Washington bureaucrats if they choose to bury these men and women.”
Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., introduced the bill in the House. It was co-sponsored by Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., and Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss.
First introduced in 2020, the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act was updated in 2021 to:
- Ensure that the VA cannot limit plot allowances provided to state veterans cemeteries if they choose to bury the individuals specified in the legislation; and
- Allow children of those eligible for burial to be buried in a state veterans’ cemetery as well if they choose.
NGAUS supported the legislation.