Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

August 12, 2012

VA to expand burial services for veterans in rural areas


Mineral Wells Index

By Jim Vines | jim.helpingveterans@gmail.com

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it is moving forward with a plan to provide burial services for veterans in rural areas where there are no available VA national cemeteries, state cemeteries or tribal veterans cemeteries.

Under the Rural Initiative Plan, the VA will build small national veterans burial grounds within existing public or private cemeteries in rural areas where the unserved veteran population is 25,000 or less within a 75-mile radius. The VA remains committed to improving service to veterans living in rural areas.

A national veterans burial ground will be a small, VA-managed section of 3-to-5 acres within an existing public or private cemetery. The VA will provide a full range of burial options and control the operation and maintenance of these lots. These sections will be held to the same national standards as the VA run national cemeteries.

The VA plans to open eight national veterans burial grounds that will serve veterans in the areas of Fargo, N.D., Rhinelander, Wis., Cheyenne, Wyo., Laurel, Mont., Idaho Falls, Idaho, Cedar City, Utah, Calais, Maine and Elko, Nev. The VA is still evaluating suitable sites for its Rural Initiative Plan. In Laurel, Mont., the VA along with local officials is exploring the feasibility of acquiring a portion of the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery to establish as a national veterans burial ground. VA officials will announce further details about the eight new burial grounds available to more than 136,000 veterans and their eligible dependents.

The VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers lots and monument sites. Nearly four million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict, from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial certificate and a government headstone, a grave marker or medallion.

More information on VA burial benefits are available at national cemetery locations or at www.cem.va.gov . To make burial arrangements at the time of need at any VA national cemetery, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-800-535-1117. or contact a local veterans service officer.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133 in Mineral Wells.