Yakym Testifies in Support of His “Ensuring Veterans’ Final Resting Place Act of 2024”

Jul 10, 2024
Press
Veterans

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Rudy Yakym (IN-02) testified in support of his legislation, H.R. 8854, the Ensuring Veterans’ Final Resting Place Act of 2024, at a House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee hearing. This legislation makes a commonsense change to existing law to allow families to inter their veteran loved one’s in a VA National Cemetery, even if they previously opted for an urn or plaque, ensuring that families have flexibility to make the best decision for their loved one’s final resting place. 

This issue was raised by one of Rep. Yakym’s constituents, who was attempting to obtain a plaque for her late husband, a Vietnam veteran. After the VA denied the constituent’s claim, Rep. Yakym intervened with the VA to secure the plaque. While going to bat for the constituent, Rep. Yakym discovered the oversight in the existing law and introduced this bill as a legislative fix. 

“Like our veterans, we owe our military families an unpayable debt,” said Rep. Yakym. “We grant veterans the final honor to be interred on solemn grounds at a national cemetery, but those logistics are left to the veteran’s family. We must allow the grieving families of America’s veterans the flexibility to wait to choose whether or not to inter their loved one at a national cemetery, and we shouldn’t deny veterans that right simply because their remains were placed in a VA urn.”

Rep. Yakym’s full testimony at today’s hearing can be viewed here and read below: 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to testify on behalf of my legislation, H.R. 8854 – the Ensuring Veterans’ Final Resting Place Act of 2024.


Under current law, if a veteran’s family chooses to have the VA furnish a commemorative plaque or urn for their loved one, they inadvertently forfeit their right to later inter the veteran at a national cemetery, which require either a headstone or a marker at the grave site.


This issue came to my attention because one of my constituents, Mrs. Jerri Simmons, was attempting to get a plaque for her late husband, Mr. Gary Simmons – a Vietnam veteran. The VA had not yet fully implemented the Johnny Isakson and David Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, which requires the VA to furnish plaques and urns in lieu of a headstone.

This prompted the VA to deny Mrs. Simmons’ claim for a plaque, which is why she called my office for help. We were able to secure a plaque for Mrs. Simmons after a phone call with the then VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs. During this exchange, we highlighted the oversight in the law and developed a solution.

The Ensuring Veterans’ Final Resting Place Act of 2024 would allow a veteran’s survivor to choose to have their veteran loved one interred in a VA national
cemetery, even if the survivor initially chose an urn or plaque in lieu of interment in a VA national cemetery, if the expense of that urn or plaque is paid for.


We demand a great deal of sacrifice from our service members, but we don’t often think about the burden those sacrifices place on our military families. Being a loved one of a member of the armed forces is no easy task. They are asked to move often – sometimes overseas, endure extended periods of time without their spouse during deployments, and tragically sometimes to continue life without a member of their family.

Like our veterans, we owe our military families an unpayable debt. We grant veterans the final honor to be interred on solemn grounds at a national cemetery, but those logistics are left to the veteran’s family. The death of a family member is always difficult and seldom do the arrangements after a death go smoothly.

Sometimes families do not immediately know if they want to have the remains of their loved one interred at a national cemetery or they simply may not want to part with the ashes right away so they may opt for an urn or a plaque. This snap decision has permanent consequences as the law is currently written.

We must allow the grieving families of America’s veterans the flexibility to wait to choose whether or not to inter their loved one at a national cemetery and we shouldn’t deny veterans that right simply because their remains were placed in a VA urn.


Thank you again for the opportunity to testify.

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