National Funeral Directors Association Board Member Will Testify Before House Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs
Brookfield, Wis. – A member of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) Executive Board is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs this week. The topic of the hearing, which will take place on March 8 at 1:30 p.m. in the Cannon House Office Building (Room 334), is veterans’ cemeteries.
NFDA At-large Representative W. Ashley Cozine, CFSP, CPC, of Broadway Mortuary in Wichita, Kan., will give testimony alongside Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the Interior Kenneth L. Salazar, former Senator Max Cleland, and representatives from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the VFW. NFDA is the only funeral service association giving testimony at this hearing.
Cozine is expected to discuss the results of a survey NFDA recently conducted to learn more about members’ experiences with veterans’ cemeteries and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). According to Cozine’s written testimony, which was submitted to the subcommittee in advance of the hearing, “Overall, our members were highly complementary of the state of our veterans cemeteries. We received an almost unanimous response that our nation’s national cemeteries operate efficiently, effectively, and with much compassion for those being buried there as well as their families.”
The survey, while not scientific, also yielded important information about the need for the VA to improve its process for reimbursing funeral homes for the services they provide to veterans and their families. Approximately half of the respondents wait 10 or more months to receive reimbursement from the VA for veteran funerals. Among the nearly 61 percent of respondents who have been waiting six months or longer for reimbursement, the average amount owed is $5,951. One funeral director reported that the VA owes his funeral home $128,355.
Cozine is also expected to express NFDA’s strong support for the “Veterans Missing in America Act of 2011” (H.R. 2051). Many funeral homes across the country are holding the cremated remains of veterans that have not been claimed by relatives. H.R. 2051 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to work with veteran service organizations and other groups to assist funeral homes in determining whether any unclaimed cremated remains are that of a veteran eligible for burial at a national cemetery. If remains are those of an eligible veteran, there is no next of kin and there are no available resources, the VA would cover burial and funeral expenses. In addition, the VA would establish a public database of the veterans identified in this project.