WASHINGTON – The House passed S. 3076, the Charles Duncan Buried with Honor Act of 2016. S. 3076, named after Charles Duncan of Little Rock, Arkansas, and introduced earlier this year by Senator Tom Cotton (AR), would amend the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012.
Under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a casket or urn for a deceased veteran whose families do not have the financial means to pay for a burial. However, families that utilize the burial benefits are eligible to be buried at national cemeteries only.
At the time of his death last year, Charles Duncan’s family require assistance from VA to pay for his burial, and, under current law, he was buried at the closest national cemetery—Fort Smith, Arkansas—which is over 150 miles away from his hometown in Little Rock, Arkansas. S. 3076 would allow veterans in similar situations to be buried at a state or tribal cemetery if it is geographically closer to the veteran’s home.
Prior to passage of the bill, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) stated on the House Floor:
“Mr. Speaker: I rise in support of S. 3076, the Charles Duncan Buried with Honor Act.
“On Saturday, July 25, 2015, U.S. Navy veteran and Little Rock resident Charles Duncan passed away at the age of 66, leaving behind a daughter, three grandsons, three great-grandsons, and a brother and sister, along with many more family, friends, and loved ones.
“Sadly, like too many of our veterans, Mr. Duncan was financially insolvent and could not afford the costs of his funeral.
“Thankfully, he was eligible for essential VA benefits to cover these costs, however, these benefits required that he be buried at the national cemetery in Fort Smith, instead of close to his home and family in Little Rock.
“By expanding the cemetery burial options offered by the VA to our veterans in need, we can provide families with the solace and peace they deserve.
“I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and support the peaceful rest of the veterans we have lost.”