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Key Legislative and Regulatory Issues

NFDA's Advocacy team works hard to make a positive impact on the laws and regulations that directly affect funeral service professionals at the national level. Our efforts are focused on five areas of legislative and regulatory issues:

Select the area you're interested in learning more about or scroll down to learn NFDA's position on the issue, available background on the topic and recent activity initiated by NFDA to benefit funeral service.


Updated: February 5, 2016

114-01 – Mass-fatality Management Planning:

NFDA Position:
NFDA will continue its active involvement with all relevant federal or state departments, agencies, and private organizations to ensure that the role of funeral service in any natural or man-made mass-fatality disaster is clearly defined and adequately reflected in their policies, will work with appropriate federal and state agencies to ensure that funeral service personnel be included as a priority group eligible for voluntary inoculation against all infectious/contagious diseases or biologic agents during a mass fatality event, and will encourage federal and state agencies to ensure that funeral service personnel volunteering in a mass fatality situation be included as a priority group eligible for voluntary inoculation against all infectious/contagious diseases or biologic agents.

Background:
NFDA has been in the forefront of advocating that the federal government and all federal agencies recognize the need and importance of funeral service and a national policy for the orderly recovery, identification, processing, and the conduct of funeral services and final dispositions for those who died from and during a natural or man-made mass-fatality event.
Any federal or state Mass Fatality Response Plan or Policy should include:

  1. Policies and procedures dealing with the dignified recovery, storage, identification and processing of remains, as well as the timely issuance of death certificates and the orderly conduct of funerals and final dispositions.
  2. Establishment of a national missing person’s database and locater for displaced family members.
  3. Funeral homes, cemeteries, crematories and morgues and their suppliers should be included as a priority for logistical and workforce support; including vaccinations; exemptions from restrictions on transportation, travel, public gatherings and the conduct of funerals and final dispositions during emergency situations that may involve quarantines.
  4. Emergency licensing reciprocity for medical examiners, coroners, funeral directors and other licensed fatality service personnel to allow them to support the needs of fatality services in other jurisdictions and provide limited liability protection and worker’s comp benefits for any negligent actions while acting in a volunteer capacity.

Activity:
NFDA continues to represent funeral service in federal efforts to establish and better manage mass-fatality situations in conjunction and cooperation with state, local and private sector resources.


114-02 – Improve Funeral and Burial Benefits for Veterans and their Families

NFDA Position:
NFDA will initiate and support legislation, rules and regulations that improve funeral and burial benefits for Veterans and their families, and will continue to work with Congress, the Department of Defense, individual service branches, veterans service organizations and other interested parties to improve the military honors program and ensure that implementing policies regarding the providing of military honors for qualified veterans reflect congressional intent and are enhanced and improved where appropriate and necessary.

Background:
Currently, there are numerous funeral and burial benefits available to veterans and their families including burial in national cemeteries, headstones and markers, memorial plots, presidential certificates, burial flags, reimbursement of burial expenses, life insurance, and other related benefits.

Activity:
In 2015, NFDA continued to research opportunities for us to support all legislation that would enhance, improve and increase the funeral and burial benefits for veterans and their families. At the request of NFDA, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1911, legislation that will create equity among veterans and ensure that veterans receive a dignified funeral and burial regardless of ability to pay or circumstances of death.  Key elements of the legislation are as follows:  increase funeral benefit for non-service-connected deaths or veterans with no next of kin from $300 to $2,000; increase funeral benefit from $700 to $2,000 for death in a VA department facility; and index these two benefits for inflation (the current code only indexes payment for “death in a VA facility” for inflation).

NFDA Advocacy staff is actively working to increase cosponsors for H.R. 1338, legislation that requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to study and report to Congress on matters relating to interring of veterans' unclaimed remains in national cemeteries under the control of the National Cemetery Administration. NFDA provided testimony in support of this important legislation before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs on June 24, 2015.  On November 16, 2015 the legislation passed the House by a 409-0 vote.  The following day, this legislation was received by the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. We will continue to advocate for the passage of this legislation in the Senate.

NFDA Advocacy staff is actively working to increase cosponsors for H.R. 250, legislation to provide a permanent appropriation of funds for the payment of death gratuities and related benefits for survivors of deceased members of the uniformed services in event of any period of lapsed appropriations.

114-03 – Small Business: Health Care, Taxes and Related Issues

NFDA Position:
NFDA will initiate, support and/or advocate for legislation, rules and regulations that recognize the unique needs of small and family-owned businesses including efforts to; support efforts to protect, modernize and improve Subchapter S corporation laws and regulations, and strongly support repealing the current federal estate tax exclusion and rate and oppose any efforts to reduce it.

Background:
Funeral directors are the typical small business; they are community-rooted and provide a valuable and necessary service to their neighbors. As a result, it is vital that NFDA remain active and involved in supporting and advocating for all bills, rules and regulations that benefit small businesses and oppose those that do not.

In 1958, Congress passed legislation to establish the Subchapter S Corporation, which merged the single level partnership form of taxation with the liability protections of a Chapter C corporation with certain limitations on number and type of shareholders and allowance for only one class of stock. Over the years, modest changes have been made to this increasingly popular corporate form. Today, more than 4.1 million Subchapter S corporations are in existence, including a growing number of funeral homes.  Under current law, estate taxes are paid by the estate of a decedent on the value of assets owned at the time of death in accordance with a graduated scale. As a result of Congress passing H.R. 8, the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012,” which was signed into law by President Barack Obama as Public Law 112-240, estate tax provisions were made permanent. Among other things, the law now provides for a $5 million exemption level ($10 million for a couple), permanently indexed to inflation, a 40% top rate (there is a graduated rate schedule below $1 million above the exemption level), spousal transfer or portability, and a stepped-up basis.

Activity:
In 2015, NFDA continued to initiate, support and/or advocate for legislation, rules and regulations that recognize the unique needs of small and family-owned businesses.  At the request of NFDA, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1109, the ‘‘Social Security Lump-Sum Death Benefit Improvement and Modernization Act of 2015.’’ This legislation seeks to increase the value of the one-time payment of the Lump Sum Death Benefit (LSDB) from $255 to $1,000 to the surviving spouse (or dependent children) following the death of a worker beneficiary or other insured worker; the LSDB has been capped for sixty years.


114-04 – Environmental Health and Safety

NFDA Position:
NFDA will enhance its efforts to address environmental health and safety issues related to funeral directors and the operation of funeral homes and crematories, and (to educate the public on) the safety of the embalming process, embalming chemicals, preparation room, alkaline hydrolysis, crematory equipment, waste generated by funeral homes and crematories, and crematory emissions. To that end, NFDA will:

  • Undertake proactive communications and education initiatives
  • Assist funeral directors with complying with environmental health and safety laws, regulations and best practices, and establishing green funeral homes end-of-life practices
  • Promote laws and practices consistent with these objectives.

Background:
Funeral homes continue to be the subject of efforts to restrict funeral home wastewater discharge and crematory emissions, with the primary focus on the safety of funeral home wastewater discharge to municipal treatment works and septic systems; crematory emissions, particularly mercury, including the siting of crematories; and the potential toxicity and adverse impact of such discharges and releases on the environment and public health. More recent regulatory issues include the relationship between formaldehyde exposure and cancer in funeral directors and embalmers and the safety and regulatory compliance of crematory emissions.

Discussion:
As always, NFDA will actively monitor these issues, educate members and engage regulators and legislators if or when they arise.


114- 05 - Organ Donation and Tissue Recovery

Position:
NFDA will encourage funeral directors to respect and support a family’s or decedent's wishes regarding organ donation.

Background:
If a family choses donation, the donation process may have an impact on the condition and appearance of the body. The family should be encouraged to discuss any particular needs in relation to the timing of the funeral, clothing preferences and other related issues with their funeral director and the recovery agency representative.

Activity:
NFDA continues to represent funeral service in federal efforts to establish and better manage organ and tissue donation in conjunction and cooperation with state, local and private sector resources and will continue to monitor state and federal legislation and regulations pertaining to organ and tissue donation. NFDA continues to promote the use of “Best Practices for Organ and Tissue Donation” as developed by NFDA, AATB and AOPO.  The document has been ratified by NFDA and AATB.