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NFDA Legislative Victories in Washington, D.C.

Posted: January 4, 2013

NFDA is pleased to start 2013 with two significant legislative victories that will have a positive impact on funeral service. First, the "Dignified Burial and Other Veterans" Benefits Improvement Act of 2012" was passed by Congress and has gone to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. The bill, which was strongly and actively supported by NFDA, includes several key provisions that NFDA has been working hard to have passed. Second, the "Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012," which addressed the so-called "fiscal cliff," included a key estate tax provision that will benefit family-owned funeral homes.

"Dignified Burial and Other Veterans" Benefits Improvement Act of 2012" (S.3202)

NFDA expects S.3202 to be signed into law soon. Below is a summary of the bill's key provisions:

  • It requires the secretary of Veterans Affairs is to furnish a casket or urn "of such quality as the Secretary considers appropriate for a dignified burial in a national cemetery" for veterans with no next of kin or sufficient resources for the burial are not otherwise available. The casket or urn must be in compliance with appropriate industry standards. This provision is effective one year after enactment;
  • With respect to the burial, interment or funeral, memorial service or ceremony of a deceased veteran at a national cemetery: the secretary shall ensure that the expressed wishes of the next of kin or other agent of the deceased veteran are respected and given appropriate deference when evaluating whether the event affects the safety and security of the national cemetery and visitors to the cemetery. This provision is effective from and after enactment;
  • The secretary shall give access to any honor guard unit including those of any veterans service organizations (VSO) or other non-governmental group providing services to the deceased veteran to public areas of a national cemetery if requested by the next of kin or other authorized agent. This provision is effective from and after enactment;
  • With respect to each deceased veteran who is transported to a national cemetery for burial: the secretary shall ensure that the local medical examiner, funeral director, county service group or other entity responsible for the body of the deceased veteran before such transportation submits to the secretary, (a) whether the deceased was cremated; and, (b) steps taken to ensure that the deceased veteran has no next of kin. A deceased veteran, as described in this subsection, is one that has no next of kin or other person claiming the body of the deceased veteran; and, who does not have sufficient resources for furnishing a casket or urn. The secretary shall pay the funeral expenses and transportation costs for the deceased veteran. This provision takes effect 180 days after enactment
  • The secretary shall cooperate with VSOs to assist entities, such as funeral homes, in possession of unclaimed or abandoned human remains to determine if such remains are those of a veteran or other individual eligible for burial in a national cemetery under the jurisdiction of the secretary. This provision is effective one-year after enactment.

A more detailed summary will be provided to NFDA members once the Department of Veterans Affairs has had time to draft implementing regulations. However, suffice it to say, this is a major victory for our nation's veterans and NFDA.

"Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012"

On the first day of 2013, the House voted in favor of an amendment in the nature of a substitute to a previously passed House bill passed by the Senate in the early hours of the day that would, in part, addresses the so-called "fiscal cliff" issue. The bill, addresses only the tax issues and pushes the spending sequestration and debt limit votes for two months and into a new Congress.

A key provision in this bill of extreme importance to NFDA and its members deals with the estate tax. Congress has agreed to make permanent the current estate tax law except for raising the tax rate from 35% to 40% for amounts that exceed the exclusion limit of $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple. The exclusion is indexed for inflation and the provision retains the current stepped-up basis and spousal transfer (portability) provisions.

NFDA, along with other small business trade associations and groups representing ranchers and family farms have actively advocated for this provision over the past several years. While our ultimate goal was to repeal the estate tax entirely, we knew the best we could get in this political environment was exactly what we achieved. It was a hard fought battle, but in the end, we won!

This is a major victory for NFDA and its members as well as all family-owned businesses, ranches and farms across America.

In addition, the bill also extends for one year the accelerated "bonus" depreciation for business investments in new property and equipment. Another provision that NFDA advocated be included in the final bill.