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Key Legislative and Regulatory Issues

For more information about any of these issues, contact NFDA's Advocacy Division staff:

Lesley Witter, Senior Vice President, Advocacy Division, 202-547-0877, lwitter@nfda.org


Updated: May 13, 2015

H.R. 1911

Support the “Veteran Burial Benefit Parity Act of 2015”: legislation to increase the value of VA funeral and burial benefits for our nation’s veterans.

 

Issue:

Veterans have served our nation and deserve a dignified funeral and burial. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the national median cost of a funeral for calendar year 2012 was $7,045.  However, the current VA burial benefit provides $300 for non-service-connected deaths, or veterans with no next of kin; $700 for death in a VA department facility; and $2,000 for death from service-connected disability.  This legislation will create equity among all veterans and ensure that all veterans receive a dignified funeral and burial regardless of ability to pay or circumstances of death.

 

Solution:

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has introduced the “Veteran Burial Benefit Parity Act of 2015” to address this important problem. 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; The current code only indexes the payment for “death in a VA facility” for inflation. This legislation will index the other two benefits for inflation.



H.R. 1109

Support  the ‘‘Social Security Lump-Sum Death Benefit Improvement and Modernization Act of 2015”: legislation to increase the value of the Lump Sum Death Benefit (LSDB),which has been capped for sixty years, from $255 to $1,000.

Issue:

Following the death of a worker beneficiary or other insured worker, Social Security makes a one-time payment of $255 to the surviving spouse or, if there is no spouse, to surviving dependent children.  The death payment was capped at $255 in 1954 when few recipients received the entire amount.  Since 1982 all payments have equaled $255, so the real (inflation-adjusted) value of the benefit now declines each year. This legislation seeks to increase the one-time payment from $255 to $1,000.

Solution:

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) has introduced H.R. 1109, the ‘‘Social Security Lump-Sum Death Benefit Improvement and Modernization Act of 2015’’ to address this important problem.

Key elements of the legislation are as follows:

  • Increase the value of the LSDB, which has been capped for sixty years, from $255 to $1,000.



H.R. 250

Support 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.


Issue:

Ensure the immediate payment of military death benefits to survivors of fallen service members when federal spending authority lapses.


Solution:

Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Tom Rooney (R-FL) have introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure our nation keeps its sacred obligation to families of service members who have died in service to their country.

H.R. 250, The Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act, would ensure the immediate payment of military death benefits to survivors of fallen service members when federal spending authority lapses.

Covered Benefits are available for the following purposes during the period of lapsed appropriations:

  • The payment of a death gratuity under sections 1475-1477 and 1489 of title 10, U.S. Code.
  • The payment or reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses authorized under sections 1481 and 1482 of title 10, U.S. Code.
  • The payment or reimbursement of authorized funeral travel and travel related to the dignified transfer of remains and unit memorial services under section 481f of title 37, U.S. Code.
  • The temporary continuation of a basic allowance of housing for dependents of members dying on active duty, as authorized by section 403(l) of title 37, U.S. Code.



H.R. 1338/S. 695

Support legislation that requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study and report to Congress on matters relating to the interring of veterans' unclaimed remains in national cemeteries under the control of the National Cemetery Administration.

 

Issue:

The Missing in America Project estimates that there are remains of about 47,000 veterans stored throughout the United States that have yet to be identified and/or claimed. With legal barriers in place that often discourage cooperation between federal agencies, it can be difficult for the next of kin to be identified or located.

 

Solution:

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)  have introduced the “Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act of 2015” to clean up this process, by first reviewing how the VA handles remains, including how they are identified, claimed and interred. 

This legislation that requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study and report to Congress on matters relating to the interring of veterans' unclaimed remains in national cemeteries under the control of the National Cemetery Administration, including:

  • the scope of the issues relating to veterans' unclaimed remains, including the estimated number of such remains;
  • the effectiveness of VA procedures for working with persons or entities having custody of unclaimed remains to facilitate the interment of such remains in such cemeteries;
  • state and local laws that affect the Secretary's ability to inter unclaimed veterans' remains in such cemeteries; and recommendations for appropriate legislative or administrative action.