VETERANS CEMETERY BENEFIT CORRECTION ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 73
(House of Representatives - May 07, 2018)

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[Pages H3753-H3755]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                VETERANS CEMETERY BENEFIT CORRECTION ACT

  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and 
pass the bill (H.R. 4910) to amend title 38, United States Code, to 
provide outer burial receptacles for remains buried in National Parks, 
and for other purposes, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 4910

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Veterans Cemetery Benefit 
     Correction Act''.

     SEC. 2. PROVISION OF OUTER BURIAL RECEPTACLES FOR REMAINS 
                   BURIED IN NATIONAL PARKS.

       Section 2306(e) of title 38, United States Code, is 
     amended--
       (1) in paragraph (1)--
       (A) by inserting ``(A)'' before ``The Secretary of 
     Veterans'';
       (B) in subparagraph (A), as designated by subparagraph (A) 
     of this paragraph, by striking ``The Secretary of the Army'' 
     and inserting the following:
       ``(B) The Secretary of the Army''; and
       (C) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
       ``(C) The Secretary of the Interior shall provide an outer 
     burial receptacle for each such a grave in an open national 
     cemetery administered by the National Park Service.'';
       (2) in paragraph (2)--
       (A) by striking ``or in the Arlington National Cemetery'' 
     and inserting ``, in the Arlington National Cemetery, or in a 
     national cemetery administered by the National Park 
     Service''; and
       (B) by striking ``or Secretary of the Army'' and inserting 
     ``, the Secretary of the Army, or the Secretary of the 
     Interior'';
       (3) in paragraph (3)(B)(ii), by striking ``or, with respect 
     to Arlington National Cemetery, the Secretary of the Army'' 
     and inserting ``or the Secretary of the Army with respect to 
     Arlington National Cemetery or the Secretary of the Interior 
     with respect to a national cemetery administered by the 
     National Park Service''; and
       (4) in paragraph (4), by striking ``or, with respect to 
     Arlington National Cemetery, the Secretary of the Army'' and 
     inserting ``or the Secretary of the Army with respect to 
     Arlington National Cemetery or the Secretary of the Interior 
     with respect to a national cemetery administered by the 
     National Park Service''.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Tennessee (Mr. Roe) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Correa) each 
will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Tennessee.


                             General Leave

  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their 
remarks and to include extraneous material on H.R. 4910, as amended.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Tennessee?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  I am pleased that we are considering H.R. 4910, the Veterans Cemetery 
Benefit Correction Act, which was introduced by Representative Scott of 
Georgia.
  Current law requires VA to provide an outer burial receptacle for 
each new grave in a cemetery under the control of the National Cemetery 
Administration. H.R. 4910 would extend this benefit to veterans who 
will be interred in cemeteries under the control of the National Park 
Service.
  This bill only impacts two cemeteries within the National Park 
Service that are open to new interments. One of these cemeteries, the 
Andrew

[[Page H3754]]

Johnson National Cemetery, is in my home district in Tennessee and has 
a fascinating story.
  Andrew Johnson served Tennessee as a Congressman, a Governor, and a 
Senator. He was also Abraham Lincoln's Vice President in 1865 and was 
sworn in as President after Lincoln's assassination. When he died in 
1857, he was buried on the land that is now the Andrew Johnson National 
Cemetery.
  The land remained in his family until the War Department acquired it 
in 1906. Finally, the jurisdiction of the cemetery was transferred to 
the National Park Service in 1942. Now the cemetery provides a final 
resting place for veterans who served our Nation since the Civil War, 
and it is still accepting new burials.
  Veterans and their family members who choose to be buried in Andrew 
Johnson National Cemetery, or any other National Park Service cemetery, 
should receive the same benefits as those who are buried in VA 
cemeteries.
  The manager's amendment incorporates some technical changes suggested 
by the National Park Service and is identical to S. 2372, which was 
introduced by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Isakson, 
and passed the Senate by unanimous consent on March 1, 2018.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Bishop), chairman 
of the Committee on Natural Resources, for helping to expedite the 
consideration of the bill today.
  I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4910, as amended, and I reserve 
the balance of my time.

                                         House of Representatives,


                               Committee on Natural Resources,

                                   Washington, DC, March 27, 2018.
     Hon. David P. Roe,
     Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Mr. Chairman: I write regarding H.R. 4910, the 
     Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act, authored by 
     Congressman Austin Scott. This bill contains provisions under 
     the jurisdiction of the Committee on Natural Resources.
       I recognize and appreciate your desire to bring this bill 
     before the House of Representatives in an expeditious manner, 
     and accordingly, I will agree that the Committee on Natural 
     Resources be discharged from further consideration of the 
     bill. I do so with the understanding that this action does 
     not affect the jurisdiction of the Committee on Natural 
     Resources, and that the Committee reserves its authority to 
     seek conferees on any provision within its jurisdiction 
     during any House-Senate conference that may be convened on 
     this, or any similar legislation. I ask that you support any 
     such request.
       I also ask that a copy of this letter and your response be 
     included in the report for the bill and in the Congressional 
     Record during consideration of the bill on the House floor.
       Thank you for your work on this important issue.
           Sincerely,
                                                       Rob Bishop,
     Chairman.
                                  ____

                                         House of Representatives,


                               Committee on Veteran's Affairs,

                                    Washington, DC, April 4, 2018.
     Hon. Rob Bishop,
     Chairman, Committee on Natural Resources,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Mr. Chairman: I write to confirm our mutual 
     understanding regarding H.R. 4910.
       I appreciate the House Natural Resources Committee's waiver 
     of consideration of provisions under its jurisdiction and its 
     subject matter. I acknowledge that the waiver was granted 
     only to expedite floor consideration of H.R. 4910, and does 
     not in any way waive or diminish the House Natural Resources 
     Committee's jurisdictional interests over this legislation or 
     similar legislation. I will support a request from the House 
     Committee on Natural Resources for appointment to any House-
     Senate conference on H.R. 4910. Finally, I will also support 
     your request to include a copy of our exchange of letters on 
     this matter in the Congressional Record during floor 
     consideration.
       Again, thank you for your assistance with these matters.
           Sincerely,
                                               David P. Roe, M.D.,
                                                         Chairman.

  Mr. CORREA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, H.R. 4910, the Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act, 
as amended, requires the Secretary of the Interior to provide an outer 
burial receptacle for each new grave in an open cemetery under the 
control of the National Park Service. The National Park Service 
controls 14 national cemeteries, two that are still active. They are 
Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and Andrew Johnson National 
Cemetery in Tennessee.
  Mr. Speaker, veterans who want to be buried at these two cemeteries 
currently must pay the cost of their own outer burial receptacle, yet 
veterans buried in national or State cemeteries controlled by the VA's 
National Cemetery Administration are provided such at no cost.
  This bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to promulgate 
rules and regulations establishing the cost that must be reimbursed to 
the Department of the Interior by survivors. The survivors will then be 
reimbursed for the cost through a VA voucher. It has already passed the 
Senate, and I urge its passage today by the House.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman 
from Georgia (Mr. Austin Scott), the sponsor of this bill.
  Mr. AUSTIN SCOTT of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of 
H.R. 4910, the Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act. If enacted, 
H.R. 4910 would require the U.S. Department of the Interior to provide 
outer burial receptacles, also known as grave liners, for veterans 
buried in cemeteries under the control of the National Park Service.
  Current law requires that the United States Department of Veterans 
Affairs provide an outer burial receptacle to a veteran buried in a 
national cemetery under the control of the National Cemetery 
Administration, which is a branch of the Veterans Administration. 
Additionally, the VA can provide a reimbursement if the family chooses 
to purchase a liner in lieu of the government-furnished grave liner.
  However, cemeteries under the control of the National Park Service 
are not covered by this statute, and neither the VA nor the National 
Park Service currently are able to provide this benefit for veterans 
buried in those cemeteries.
  The Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act simply amends the law to 
require the Department of the Interior to provide an outer burial 
receptacle for each new veteran's grave in a national cemetery under 
the control of the National Park Service, just as would be provided if 
they were buried under the Veterans Administration.
  This bill also provides for the reimbursement of a veteran's 
survivors who provide a privately purchased outer burial receptacle for 
use in a National Park Service cemetery.
  Of the 14 national cemeteries controlled by the National Park 
Service, two are still active: Andersonville National Cemetery in 
Georgia, which my colleague Mr. Bishop currently represents, and Andrew 
Johnson National Cemetery in Tennessee.
  I am pleased to have introduced this bipartisan, commonsense 
legislation alongside my friend, fellow Georgian, and chairman of the 
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Senator Johnny Isakson, to 
ensure our veterans receive equal burial benefits, regardless of where 
they are laid to rest.
  It is now more important than ever to close the gap in benefits for 
veterans who are buried in cemeteries managed by the National Park 
Service. In doing so, we will ensure that all veterans and their 
families are receiving the benefits and respect they have rightly 
earned.
  I urge support from my colleagues on this bipartisan measure and 
commonsense piece of legislation.
  Mr. CORREA. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr. Bishop), my good friend.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to encourage my 
colleagues to support H.R. 4910, the Veterans Cemetery Benefit 
Correction Act. I joined my fellow Georgia Congressman Austin Scott to 
introduce this bipartisan legislation to ensure that all of our veteran 
families receive the benefits that they have earned.
  I thank the chairman and the ranking member for their leadership in 
bringing this bill to the floor, and I thank all of my colleagues for 
their help in moving it forward.
  Mr. Speaker, Andersonville, which is one of the two remaining 
National Park Service cemeteries, has a very, very interesting and 
unique history. Andersonville was the site of a Civil War prisoner of 
war camp, and, interestingly enough, it held prisoners of war for both 
the Union and the Confederates. Unfortunately, because of the

[[Page H3755]]

unsanitary conditions, thousands of veterans, both Union and 
Confederate, died at Andersonville.
  Of course, in more recent years, Andersonville has been designated as 
the National Prisoner of War Memorial for our country, and, in that 
stead, we erected and funded the National Prisoner of War Museum, which 
is located on the grounds of Andersonville. The facilities there are 
controlled totally by the National Park Service.

  Currently, when veterans are buried in some of the Federal 
cemeteries, as you have heard, a number of the families are left to pay 
the burial costs that typically would be afforded them under other 
circumstances.
  Current law requires that when a veteran is buried in a national 
cemetery under the control of the National Cemetery Administration, 
that the VA will provide an outer burial receptacle, known in other 
terms as a grave liner, or it will provide reimbursement to the family 
for purchase.
  However, the current law inexplicably excludes national cemeteries 
that are under the control of the National Park Service. The 
Andersonville National Cemetery, located in my district, is one of the 
two remaining national cemeteries controlled by the National Park 
Service.
  Today, we are taking steps for Congress to correct this oversight and 
to ensure that veterans buried in cemeteries controlled by the National 
Park Service, and their families, are provided all of the benefits to 
which they are entitled, not only for my district but for all of our 
veterans and their families who have selflessly served our country.
  I applaud Senator Isakson's successful effort to push this 
legislation through the Senate under unanimous consent. It is now time 
for the House to take action, and by voting for this legislation, we 
can fix this oversight and ensure that all of our veterans and their 
families are provided appropriate benefits in all of our Federal 
cemeteries.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I have no further speakers. I am 
prepared to close. I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. CORREA. Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in passing 
H.R. 4910, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues to 
support this commonsense legislation of Mr. Scott and Mr. Bishop, and I 
yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Roe) that the House suspend the rules and 
pass the bill, H.R. 4910, as amended.
  The question was taken.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds 
being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and 
nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further 
proceedings on this motion will be postponed.

                          ____________________