The National Funeral Directors Association reaffirmed its dedication to honoring the nation’s veterans with dignity and respect by testifying in favor of several legislative bills during a hearing held today by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

Lesley Witter, senior vice president of advocacy for NFDA began her testimony before Congress by thanking Chairman Morgan Luttrell (R-TX), Ranking Member Chris Pappas (D-NH), and Members of the Subcommittee, for inviting NFDA to participate in this vital hearing.

“Mr. Chairman, NFDA extends gratitude to you and your fellow veterans in Congress for your service to our nation, both on Capitol Hill and in the armed forces. We commend the Committee for its ongoing efforts to ensure veterans receive the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice … NFDA appreciates the opportunity to provide our perspective on matters related to funeral and burial benefits.”

While the Committee was deliberating on 18 bills addressing critical issues affecting veterans, Witter shared NFDA’s support for six specific bills:

  • “Mark Our Place Act” (H.R. 6507): Would ensure every veteran continues to receive the memorialization they deserve.
  • “Dennis and Lois Krisfalusy Act” (H.R. 7729): Would expand eligibility for headstones, markers, and burial receptacles to include certain individuals who passed away before November 11, 1998.
  • “Flowers for Fallen Heroes Act of 2024” (H.R. 8792): Would establish a program for ordering flowers at gravesites overseen by the American Battle Monuments Commission to respectfully memorialize the more than 200,000 Americans who perished in WWI or WWII.
  • “Veterans’ Burial Improvement Act of 2024”: Would make certain burial benefits permanent for spouses and children of armed forces members who die while on active duty. Would also enable the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cover costs for transporting a veteran from the place of death to a designated cemetery.
  • “Preserving Veterans’ Legacy Act of 2024”: NFDA has collaborated closely with the VA and the National Cemetery Administration to understand the challenges posed by gravesites containing commingled remains or multiple individual graves of unclaimed veterans. This bill would enable the VA to furnish a group burial headstone or marker for eligible decedents, while ensuring that every effort is made to acknowledge each individual by name whenever feasible.
  • “Ensuring Veterans’ Final Resting Place Act of 2024” (H.R. 8854): NFDA has previously raised concerns about a provision in Section 2207 of P.L. 116-315 that could unintentionally jeopardize the veteran’s eligibility for ground burial by opting for an urn benefit from the VA. This contrasts starkly with privately purchasing an urn, which does not impact burial rights. NFDA supports legislative adjustments that allow families to reimburse the VA for an urn provided by them, thereby safeguarding continued eligibility for interment alongside their spouse in a VA or national cemetery. In alignment with this stance, NFDA also supports H.R. 8854, which empowers veteran families to make informed decisions regarding their loved ones’ final resting places.

During her testimony, Witter noted, “These legislative initiatives are crucial steps toward ensuring that our veterans and their families receive the utmost respect and recognition for their sacrifices to our nation. NFDA is proud to support these efforts and remains committed to advocating for the dignified treatment of our nation’s heroes.”

NFDA President Douglas R. “Dutch” Nie II, owner, president and CEO of Nie Family Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is both a licensed funeral director and Air Force veteran. Reflecting on his dual roles as a funeral director and a veteran, Nie said, “The funeral and burial of a veteran is profoundly meaningful to the family of the deceased. Every time I witness military honors being rendered at a military funeral, it serves as a poignant reminder of the earned burial rights that should forever be honored.”

NFDA’s Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans

NFDA has built a strong legacy of advocating as the voice of funeral service and veterans on Capitol Hill through its continuous advocacy and expert guidance. NFDA closely collaborates with key Congressional committees, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and veterans service organizations to ensure that the perspectives of funeral directors – who are dedicated to ensuring every veteran receives a respectful and dignified final tribute – are effectively communicated and represented.

On behalf of NFDA and its members, Witter successfully advocated for the passage of “The Corey Shea Act” [P.L. 111-275], which grants parents of deceased veterans the right to be buried with their children if the veteran has no living spouse or minor children. She also led the charge in advocating for the passage of the “BRAVE Act” [P.L. 116-315], which updates veteran burial benefits to ensure veterans are not penalized for where they die and are treated equally based on their service, not the circumstances at their time of death.

Witter has previously represented NFDA by researching, writing and providing oral testimony to the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs on multiple occasions. She also works with members of Congress and staff on legislative language and providing written testimony and comments to the VA on issues impacting funeral service and grieving families.

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