U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced Gerald’s Law Act, bipartisan legislation that would expand Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) burial benefits eligibility to terminally ill veterans who pass away at a non-VA facility while receiving hospice care.
Under current law, the VA will cover nearly $800 toward burial and funeral expenses only if the veteran is hospitalized at the VA at the time of death. This legislation would update the department’s policy, ensuring veterans aren’t penalized for spending their last days in the comfort of their homes or other settings.
“Veterans who chose to live their last days at home while receiving VA hospice care should not be penalized for their decision. Expanding the burial benefit will allow veterans and their loved ones to make end-of-life decisions based on comfort, not on cost,” Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said.
“Veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country should be treated equally based on their service, and not be penalized due to the circumstances at their time of death,” said Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This bipartisan bill would take important steps to fix the VA’s burial benefit system because we owe it our veterans and their families to ensure they are properly laid to rest with dignity and respect.”
“Our brave Veterans have made invaluable sacrifices to protect our great nation, and it is our duty to take care of them from when they return home until they are laid to rest,” said Manchin. “I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to expand VA burial benefits to Veterans who pass away outside of a VA facility to allow Veterans and their families freedom in making this personal, heartbreaking decision. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important legislation to ensure every American hero is honored with the burial they deserve.”
“Our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for our country,” said Rounds. “Their selfless commitment deserves the utmost honor and respect, not just during their service, but after their service has concluded. Where a veteran chose to spend their last days should not determine whether or not their family receives a benefit that was earned. This legislation will help families cherish their final moments with loved ones in a setting that’s most comfortable.”
The legislation is named after a Michigan veteran who was denied the non-service connected burial and plat benefit.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), the National Association for Country Veterans Service Officers, With Honor and The Independence Fund support Gerald’s Law Act.
Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Colin Allred (D-TX).