Congressman Donald Norcross

Representing the 1st District of New Jersey
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In Advance of Memorial Day, Rep. Norcross Introduces Dignity for America’s Military Families Act

May 22, 2015
News Release

Washington, DC– Today, in honor of Memorial Day and in tribute to our fallen heroes, Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) introduced the Dignity for America’s Military Families Act, which fixes an oversight in current law and allows veterans and their loved ones to be buried together in a place of their choice. 

“Duty is a two-way street, ” said Congressman Norcross. “Just as our veterans answered the call to protect our freedom, we should be doing everything in our power to make sure government works for them back home.”

Under current law, any veteran who passes away after October 31, 1990 is eligible to receive a government-furnished headstone or grave marker from the Veterans Administration free of charge. Similarly, a veteran’s spouse or dependent, having died on or after November 11, 1998, is also eligible for a VA-issued headstone. However, in some cases military spouses or dependents are denied this benefit if they happen to pass away before the veteran. Presently, if a veteran or loved one chooses to be buried in a county or private cemetery, as opposed to a federal or state burial location, the VA will only issue the headstone at time of veteran’s death – meaning if the spouse or dependent dies first, the veteran must pay upwards of $1200 out of pocket for a temporary headstone or the grave remains unmarked until the veteran passes.  

“When our troops are deployed into service, both they and their loved ones make a sacrifice,” said Congressman Norcross. “Dealing with the death of a loved one can be stressful enough, having to pay thousands of dollars on a temporary marker or risk the grave site going unmarked due to a technicality in the law is not how we should treat those who fought for our freedom. The Dignity for America’s Military Families Act corrects this problem and gives veterans and their families the burial rights that they have rightfully earned.” 

Congressman Norcross’ bill provides a simple, easy and common sense fix to this problem that has caused frustration and heartache for countless families throughout America. The legislation expands current law and ensures that eligible military spouses and dependents receive a VA-issued headstone, regardless of when the veteran passes or where they choose to be buried. 

“The National Guard Association of the United States strongly supports the Dignity for America’s Military Families Act,” said NGAUS President and Retired Tennessee Army National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett. “This long overdue effort  truly honors our veterans by honoring their spouses and dependents who will share the longer journey.”

“AMVETS, the subject matter experts on National Cemetery issues, wholeheartedly supports the Dignity for America’s Military Families Act, said U.S. Army veteran and AMVETS National Legislative Director Diane Zumatto. “This bill exemplifies the VA’s motto taken from President Lincoln’s words ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan…’. Anyone who has ever served in the military understands the critical role that their spouse plays in their success. This legislation recognizes the unique sacrifices made by military spouses.”

“It takes an entire family to help a service member effectively deploy and return home from combat,” said Joseph Richardson, PhD, retired U.S. Army Major and President of the New Jersey Council of Chapters of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). “America's military families play a critical role in providing support to our troops both at home and abroad so that they can focus on their job keeping the country safe. The New Jersey Council of Chapters of the MOAA wholeheartedly endorses the Dignity for America's Military Families Act which reflects the sacrifice made by not only our troops, but also the families that support them in completing their mission.”

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Norcross remains committed to ensuring that our veterans have the resources they have earned protecting our great nation.