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National cemetery system and H.R. 821 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Housing and Memorial Affairs of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, June 10, 1993 online

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NATIONAL CEMETERY SYSTEM AND H.R. 821

Y 4. V 64/3; ] 03-1 8

national Cenetery Sgsten and H.R. 8. . . jp

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON
HOUSING AND MEMORIAL AEFAIRS

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATrO]S

ONE HUNDRED THIRD CONGRESS
FIRST SESSION



JUNE 10, 1993



Printed for the use of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Serial No. 103-18







DEC 2 3 i; ■;



f|CI»?-



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1993



For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents. Congressional Sales Office, Washington. DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-041639-6



NATIONAL CEMETERY SYSTEM AND H.R. 821

Y 4. V b4/3: 103-18

National Ceneterg Sgsten and H.R. 8. . . jp

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON
HOUSING AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATr\^S

ONE HUNDRED THIRD CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION



JUNE 10, 1993



Printed for the use of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Serial No. 103-18







DEC 2 3 ms



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
71-287 tj WASHINGTON : 1993

For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Supenntendent of Documents. Congressional Sales Office, Washington. DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-041639-6



COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS



G.V. (SONNY) MONTGOMERY, Mississippi, Chairman



DON EDWARDS, California

DOUGLAS APPLEGATE, Ohio

LANE EVANS, Illinois

TIMOTHY J. PENNY, Minnesota

J. ROY ROWLAND, Georgia

JIM SLATTERY, Kansas

JOSEPH P. KENNEDY, II, Massachusetts

GEORGE E. SANGMEISTER, Illinois

JILL L. LONG, Indiana

CHET EDWARDS, Texas

MAXINE WATERS, California

BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee

BOB FILNER, California

FRANK TEJEDA, Texas

LUIS V. GUTIERREZ, Illinois

SCOTTY BAESLER, Kentucky

SANFORD BISHOP, Georgia

JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina

MIKE KREIDLER, Washington

CORRINE BROWN, Florida



BOB STUMP, Arizona
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
DAN BURTON, Indiana
MICHAEL BILIRAKIS, Florida
THOMAS J. RIDGE, Pennsylvania
FLOYD SPENCE, South Carolina
TIM HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
STEVE BUYER, Indiana
JACK QUINN, New York
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOHN LINDER, Georgia
CLIFF STEARNS, Florida
PETER T. KING, New York



Mack Fleming, Staff Director and Chief Counsel



SUBCOMMITTEE ON HOUSING AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS
GEORGE E. SANGMEISTER, Illinois, Chairman



SANFORD BISHOP, Georgia

MIKE KREIDLER, Washington

G.V. (SONNY) MONTGOMERY, Mississippi



DAN BURTON, Indiana
FLOYD SPENCE, South Carolina
STEVE BUYER, Indiana



(n)



CONTENTS



June 10, 1993



Page

National Cemetery System and H.R. 821 1

OPENING STATEMENTS

Chairman Sangmeister 1

Prepared statement of Chairman Sangmeister 37

WITNESSES

Bonilla, Hon. Henry, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas 2

Prepared statement of Congressman Bonilla 38

Bowen, Jerry W., Director, National Cemetery System, Department of Veter-
ans Affairs, accompanied by Roger R. Rapp, Director, Field Operations 5

Prepared statement of Mr. Bowen 39

Brinck, Michael F., National Legislative Director, AMVETS 20

Prepared statement of Mr. Brinck 58

Cline, M. Sgt. Michael (ret.). Executive Director, Enlisted Association of the

National Guard 31

Prepared statement of Sergeant Cline 86

Cullinan, Dennis M., National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars .. 23

Prepared statement of Mr. Cullinan 70

Dola, Steven, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Management and Budget, Depart-
ment of the Army 12

Prepared statement of Mr. Dola 42

Dupree, Clifton E., Associate Legislative Director, Paralyzed Veterans of

America 21

Prepared statement of Mr. Dupree 63

Johnson, Richard, Director, Legislative Affairs, Non Commissioned Officers

Association 25

Prepared statement of Mr. Johson 66

Ryan, Col. William E., Jr., Director of Operations and Finance, American

Battle Monuments Commission 14

Prepared statement of Colonel Ryan 47

Schreiber, Col. Charles G. (ret.). Director, Legislative Activities, National

Guard Association 30

Prepared statement of Colonel Schreiber 80

Violante, Joseph A., Legislative Counsel, Disabled American Veterans 18

Prepared statement of Mr. Violante 50

Vitikacs, John R., Assistant Director, National Veterans Affairs and Rehabili-
tation Commission, The American Legion 24

Prepared statement of Mr. Vitikacs 75

MATERIAL SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD

Bill:

H.R. 821 35

(III)



IV

Statements: » . ■ qa

National Concrete Burial Vault Association »^

American Cemetery Association

Written committee questions and their responses:

Chairman Sangmeister to Department of Veterans Affairs i"'^



NATIONAL CEMETERY SYSTEM AND H.R. 821



THURSDAY, JUNE 10, 1993

House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Housing and
Memorial Affairs,
Committee on Veterans' Affairs,

Washington, DC.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:35 a.m., in room
334, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. George E. Sangmeister
(chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

Present: Representatives Sangmeister, Burton, Buyer.

OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN SANGMEISTER

Mr. Sangmeister. The subcommittee will be in order.

I'm pleased to welcome all of the witnesses to discuss the pro-
grams and operations of VA's National Cemetery System, Arling-
ton National Cemetery and the American Battle Monuments Com-
mission.

Let me first extend a personal note of congratulations to Jerry
W. Bowen, who is making his first appearance before the subcom-
mittee in his position as the newly confirmed director of the Na-
tional Cemetery System. We had a personal visit in my district
about a week ago. It certainly was rewarding I would like to think,
for both of us.

Jerry, I look forward to working closely with you and your staff.

The VA's National Cemetery System, as most of us know, con-
sists of 114 national cemeteries, 59 of which are open to first family
interments while 55 are closed except to eligible family members of
those already buried.

Over the next decade, we must focus our attention on identifying
additional gravesites in our national cemeteries to meet the needs
of an aging veteran population. Not only must we ensure that the
honor of burial in our national shrines is available to veterans, but
we must strive to ensure that all graves are perpetually main-
tained at the highest standards possible.

In a 1987 report to Congress, required by Public Law 99-576, VA
identified ten areas of the country most in need of a national ceme-
tery based on veteran population not served by a national or state
veterans cemetery. While only one of the ten, the San Joaquin
Valley National Cemetery in California, has opened, I look forward
to receiving updates on the status of the remaining nine sites. I
also want to encourage VA to move expeditiously and release the
second report to Congress as required by law.

(1)



In reviewing the fiscal year 1994 budget request for the National
Cemetery System, I note that the total request is slightly below the
fiscal year 1993 appropriations level. While increased funding was
provided in the last 2 fiscal years to help meet increased workloads
in all areas, I question how NCS will continue to provide its serv-
ices at the highest level with an essentially static budget.

I look forward to hearing the testimony of my distinguished col-
league, the Honorable Henry Bonilla of Texas on H.R. 821, legisla-
tion he has introduced to amend Title 38 of the United States Code
to extend eligibility for burial in a national cemetery to Reservists
and National Guardsmen having served 20 years of qualified
service.

We have with us this morning the Honorable Henry Bonilla
from the 23rd District of Texas and the Honorable Frank Tejeda
from the 28th District of Texas. They wish to discuss, H.R. 821, the
bill to allow burial of reservists that have served over 20 years
service.

Welcome to the committee and you may proceed.

STATEMENT OF HON. HENRY BONILLA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS

Mr. Bonilla. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have some very brief
prepared remarks and would be happy to take any questions after
that.

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee on Housing
and Memorial Affairs, I'm pleased to be here with you this morn-
ing on behalf of over one million reservists and their families in
each and every Congressional district across this great Nation. I
appreciate the opportunity to testify regarding legislation which I
introduced earlier this session, H.R. 821. I introduced this biparti-
san bill along with Charlie Stenholm and Veterans' Committee
members Frank Tejeda, who is here with me today, and Congress-
man Steve Buyer. As you know, this legislation would extend eligi-
bility for burial in national cemeteries to members of the Reserve
components of our Armed Forces who have at least 20 years of
service creditable for retired pay.

Under current law, the only members of the Reserve components
of the Armed Forces who are eligible for burial in a national ceme-
tery are those who, number one, die under honorable conditions
while hospitalized or undergoing treatment at the expense of the
United States for injury or disease contracted or incurred while
such member is performing active duty for training, in active duty
training or traveling to or from such duty; number two, are dis-
abled or die from disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line
of duty during or enroute to or from inactive duty training; and
number three, are disabled or die from injury but not disease in-
curred or aggravated in line of duty during or enroute to or from
active duty training.

However, members of the Reserves who have spent 20 years pre-
paring both physically and mentally to defend our Nation at a mo-
ment's notice are not eligible for burial in the National Cemetery
System.



Mr. Chairman, as you are well aware, similar legislation, H.R.
4368, which provided for the burial benefits specified in H.R. 821,
unanimously passed this subcommittee, the full Committee and the
full House of Representatives during the 102nd Congress.

Mr. Chairman, reservists have served this Nation admirably over
the years. Today, reservists participate routinely in operations such
as Just Cause, Kindle Liberty in Panama, Urgent Fury in Grenada
and Desert Shield/ Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. Reservists
also stand ready to assist Americans when a disaster hits home
such as Hurricane Andrew, after which we saw Reserve forces
maintaining law and order and providing humanitarian assistance
in Southern Florida.

These instances that I have just noted are only a few of the ways
in which reservists serve our Nation. I believe that this dedicated
service must be acknowledged and reservists provided the benefit
of burial in a national cemetery. We should do as the members of
the 102nd Congress did in recognizing that reservists who dedicate
years to their country should be accorded burial rights in our na-
tional cemeteries.

I would like to remind the subcommittee of the comments of the
distinguished Chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee, Sonny
Montgomery, who 1 year ago yesterday, on the floor of the House,
urged passage of H.R. 4368 which was similar to today's H.R. 821. I
would like to second Chairman Montgomery's statement of that
day in which he said, "Mr. Chairman, I urge passage of this legisla-
tion."

Those are my prepared comments and I'd be more than happy to
answer any questions that the committee may have.

[The prepared statement of Congressman Bonilla appears on
p. 38.]

Mr. Sangmeister. Well, one question that I have and I am not
sure if you've got an answer to it because I don't know how you put
the figures together, but there's not by any means unanimous op-
position to this bill. In fact, you have some support for what you
want to do. One of the questions is with spaces closing in our na-
tional cemeteries and with our veterans becoming older, more of
them dying, we need the space that we have right now. Do you
have any figures on how many more interments would take place
if we opened it up to reservists?

Mr. Bonilla. Yes. About 6,900 reservists a year would be eligi-
ble, but only a small percentage of this number would seek burial
in national cemeteries.

Mr. Sangmeister. There may be some dispute on your last
figure, but it's interesting. Can you tell me how you put together
the 6,900 figure? Just taking a percentage of those that are eligible
that you think would take advantage of it.

Mr. Bonilla. Just one second.

Mr. Sangmeister. I'm not trying to pin you down. I think you
probably took a percentage of the 6,900

Mr. Bonilla. No, no, no. I do have that.

Mr. Sangmeister (continuing). The eligible.

Mr. Bonilla. Let me read from last year's committee report.
"CBO estimates that the total number of deaths from these two
groups would be around 6,900 annually based on the data from the



Defense Department actuaries. The estimate further assumes that
burial in a national cemetery would be requested for only 12 per-
cent of these reservists at an average cost of about $500.00 per
burial and annually that's about $400,000.00."

Mr. Sangmeister. Okay. Mr. Buyer, do you have any questions?

Mr. Buyer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I compliment my colleagues for coming forward here. Frank, are
you going to testify on this particular bill?

Mr. Tejeda. No, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Buyer. I just wanted
to

Mr. Buyer. It was my understanding he was not testifying.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

I know that perhaps some are sa5dng, "Well, as we enter not
only our budget crisis, Mr. Chairman, and we're closing up ceme-
teries, why do we want to open up more spaces to our cemeteries?"
and that's a legitimate question to ask.

But I step back, Mr. Chairman, from a very objective point of
view and say as we look at the one military concept and with the
downsizing of our military, placing greater emphasis upon the con-
tributions of the National Guard and the Reserves into the one
military concept to be able to even respond to second contingencies
now, is the kind of force structure we're moving to in the Armed
Services Committee and that's what's happening over there in the
Pentagon. Because of what occurred in the Persian Gulf War, it
was the accolade for the one military concept, especially to those
who were critical, whether or not the National Guard had the
training and could perform, whether or not the reservists were
properly trained. Desert Storm silenced a lot of that.

So, if we're going to talk about the one military concept and
place greater reliance upon the National Guard and the Reserves,
then one military concept extends beyond training, it extends
beyond the battlefield.

It extends to equal treatment and that treatment also means ex-
tending the rights of burial. We extend those rights in the VA
system if they've been service-connected disabilities and those
forms of benefits, and that is why, Mr. Bonilla, I didn't hesitate at
all to sign onto your bill.

I think he's taking it into account, Mr. Chairman, by placing
some limitations.

Henry, why did you say only to 20 years?

Mr. Bonilla. Well, we felt strongly that a special recognition
should not extend to everyone, but we feel that 20 years is a
strong, solid, long-term commitment. So, that's what we base that
on.

Mr. Buyer. And, of course, these are individuals who have come
on to the retirement system.

Mr. Bonilla. Right, so they're eligible in every way to receive re-
tirement and the honor that goes along with having served.

Mr. Buyer. Henry, have you thought about if this places stress
upon the cemetery system, what other avenues could we approach
to open up more cemeteries?

Mr. Bonilla. I'd be happy to work with you or any member of
the committee to try to open new cemeteries. I think we have a lot
of space in this country that can be used for that purpose.



Mr. Buyer. And I note, Mr. Chairman, many even on this com-
mittee have talked about military base closures and a lot of these
bases being closed and having Reserve enclaves on bases, and the
use of some of that space, because some of them have museums
and they want to keep museums. So, you've got space there for
some cemetery.

Thank you, Henry.

Mr. BoNiLLA. Thank you.

Mr. Sangmeister. Well, both of you make a persuasive argument
and we have people here this morning that we want to hear from
that I think have some thoughts about whether we should or
should not do this. So, we'll get both perspectives on it.

Thank you very much. Your bill will be given full attention by
this subcommittee and we'll make a decision one way or another as
we go through the process.

Mr. BoNiLLA. Thank you, Mr.Chairman.

Mr. Sangmeister. Okay. The first panel that we're going to hear
from this morning is from the Department of Veteran Affairs. The
new Director, Jerry W. Bowen of the National Cemetery System, is
accompanied by a familiar figure here, Roger Rapp, who is the Di-
rector of Field Operations.

So, if you gentlemen will take the table.

While they're coming up, I want to say a word of thanks to the
National Cemetery System for allowing a member of their staff.
Ken Greenberg, to serve as a legislative fellow here and to extend
his stay with the subcommittee. So, I thank you very much. Ken
has been a big help to the subcommittee and I sure appreciate his
being able to stay on at least to our August recess.

Mr. Sangmeister. Mr. Bowen, welcome to the committee. We
have your written testimony here which you can summarize or pro-
ceed in any way you see fit.

STATEMENT OF JERRY W. BOWEN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CEME-
TERY SYSTEM, DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS,
ACCOMPANIED BY ROGER R. RAPP, DIRECTOR, FIELD OPER-
ATIONS

Mr. Bowen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In addition to Mr. Rapp, as you mentioned, who is the Director of
the NCS Field Operations, on my left, I also have with me at the
witness table Vincent Barile, who is our Director of the NCS Oper-
ation Support and Ms. Dorothy MacKay, who is Director of the
NCS Budget and Planning Office.

Mr. Sangmeister. Welcome to both of you.

Mr. Bowen. Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the
subcommittee, it's my pleasure to appear before you this morning
to address the status of the National Cemetery System and to com-
ment on H.R. 821, a bill to extend national cemetery burial eligibil-
ity to persons with 20 years of service creditable for retired pay as
members of Reserve component of the Armed Forces.

Let me begin this morning by saying, Mr. Chairman, that this
subcommittee has always been a supporter of the National Ceme-
tery System and this support has been greatly appreciated. I look



forward to working with you and members of the committee in the
future.

You asked me to speak this morning on the operational needs of
the National Cemetery System. Although I have been Director only
a short period of time, I have had sufficient opportunity to meet
with our NCS area directors and several of our cemetery directors
to discuss their views, recommendations and concerns. I've been fa-
vorably impressed with the dedication and the pride exhibited by
members of the National Cemetery System and it will be my privi-
lege to serve with them in the years ahead.

One of our main goals is to make the benefit of interment in a
national cemetery available to as many veterans as possible. We
have 114 national cemeteries located throughout the United States
and Puerto Rico. And as you mentioned, 59 are open for burial
while 55 are closed to the casketed interment of a first family
member. Our newest national cemetery, San Joaquin Valley in
Northern California, opened in June 1992.

As a result of the aging of our World War II and Korean War
veterans, the demand for cemetery grave space will increase in the
coming years. This increased demand for service requires that the
NCS carefully manage existing resources and identify future oppor-
tunities to acquire additional land for burial space. This will be ac-
complished in four ways. First, we seek to extend the service period
of open national cemeteries through the development of available
space for cremated remains. Second, to acquire land through pur-
chase or donation to keep existing cemeteries open. Third, we en-
courage States to provide additional grave sites through participa-
tion in the State Cemetery Grants Program. And four, we will es-
tablish, when feasible, new national cemeteries to serve the needs
of the veteran population.

Progress has been made in planning for construction of cemeter-
ies in our large metropolitan areas which are currently under-
served. Regarding the areas identified in VA's 1987 report to Con-
gress as being most in need of a national cemetery, the needs of
one area are met by the San Joaquin Valley Cemetery, as I men-
tioned. Final environmental impact statements have been complet-
ed or are expected to be completed for the remaining nine areas by
early 1994. Funding has been provided for land acquisition and
master planning at four of these sites, Albany, Chicago, Cleveland
and Seattle. Master planning funds have been provided for Dallas.
The second report to Congress is currently under VA internal
review.

Our projections indicate that 11 of the 59 open national cemeter-
ies will close to first family member interments before the year
2000, with an additional 13 cemeteries closing before the year 2020
unless adjacent land is acquired. Those cemeteries which are pro-
jected to close are currently under internal review to determine
the feasibility of extending their service life through the acquisi-
tion of adjacent land. Four of the 11 cemeteries scheduled to close
before the year 2000, in Florence, SC; Fort Sam Houston, TX;
Biloxi, MS; and Da5rton, OH, have land acquisition in progress and
we're optimistic that we will be able to keep these cemeteries open
into the 21st century. This effort will repiain a priority.



Specifically you've asked me to speak to our operational needs in
light of the current restrained fiscal environment. We have three
main operational goals. Number one is having the personnel to do
the job. Number two is having the equipment to do the job, and
number three is maintaining and repairing what we have. How can
we accomplish these goals with a budget that is essentially remain-
ing level while our rate of burial increases?

The 1994 budget submission includes an increase of 11 employees
for our cemeteries. As you are aware, we have a substantial back-
log of equipment in need of replacement. By the end of fiscal year
1993, that backlog will be reduced to $5.8 million. The National
Cemetery System has requested sufficient funding in 1994 to main-
tain the progress already made against this backlog. Accordingly,
we will have enough functioning equipment to serve the cemeter-
ies. As for maintenance, we believe that the additional FTEE, the
strides that have been made in the equipment backlog to date, and
that intangible, the dedication of our employees, will permit us to
maintain our cemeteries in the manner expected by those that we
serve.

Finally, I want to turn now to the issue of H.R. 821 which would
extend eligibility for burial in national cemeteries to persons who
have 20 years of service creditable for retired pay as members of a
Reserve component of the Armed Forces. VA has previously ex-
pressed opposition to similar proposals, noting that veterans bene-
fit programs developed by Congress over the last four decades are
generally not available to those individuals whose military service
does not include actual active duty. We believe that extension of
any veterans benefit to individuals who are prepared to serve on
active duty but have not actually done so could have far reaching
implications. Considering the uncertainty of these implications, VA
cannot endorse the expansion of eligibility for burial in a national
cemetery for individuals whose military service does not meet the
criteria established under current law.

At this time, there are more than one million individuals in the
Selected Reserve and more than 500,000 in the Individual Ready
Reserve. We cannot estimate the long-term costs since we do not
know the percentage of reservists who would seek burial in the na-
tional cemeteries. The issue for us is not just the up front burial
cost, but the cost of perpetual care and, more irnportantly, the de-
pletion of limited grave space for veterans of active duty and their
dependents.

There are also other budgetary implications for NCS if our serv-
ice population is expanded to include 20 year reservists. We would
experience additional requests for headstones and markers and


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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on VeterNational cemetery system and H.R. 821 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Housing and Memorial Affairs of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, June 10, 1993 → online text (page 1 of 11)