Legislation to make Guard and Reserve members eligible for burial state Veterans cemeteries to be signed into law

(Washington, D.C.)-- Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee, today issued the following statement after Congress passed the Burial Equity for Guard and Reserves Act. Hoeven introduced the bipartisan, bicameral legislation with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to make members of the National Guard and Reserve Component eligible for burial in state veterans cemeteries without those cemeteries losing access to federal grants. The legislation will now go to the president to be signed into law.

“State veterans cemeteries, including ours in North Dakota, allow servicemembers to be laid to rest with honor closer to their homes and loved ones,” said Hoeven. “Once signed into law, our bill will allow National Guard and Reserve members to be buried in state veterans cemeteries without the cemetery losing access to VA grants. Our bill is one important way to honor their service, and comes as part of our broader efforts to ensure they receive the recognition and benefits that they have earned through their vital contributions to the security of our nation.”

Currently, if a cemetery receives federal grant funding, then only certain servicemembers who meet national eligibility standards are allowed to be buried there. This requirement has led to uncertainty regarding whether the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery may be eligible for certain grants. The bill introduced by Hoeven, Shaheen, Cramer and Hassan would address this issue by prohibiting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from conditioning grants on a cemetery’s compliance with existing eligibility criteria for burial. The legislation is supported by the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

The legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate earlier this week. In January, the senators pressed for approval of the legislation, and have also urged the VA to implement the changes. In November, Senator Hoeven hosted VA Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs (USMA) Matthew Quinn in North Dakota, where the senator worked to secure support for the legislation. Hoeven invited Quinn to visit the state to meet with local veterans support groups and review both the national and state veterans cemeteries in Fargo and Mandan.