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Lawmakers fight to save rifle salute at veteran funerals

A bugler plays taps at Arlington National Cemetery (Beverly & Pack/Creative Commons)

Moves are afoot in Connecticut to assure veterans of dignified and respectful military funeral honors that include a traditional three-volley rifle salute.

Cuts to funding which pays for the military honors have been met with dismay, in the wake of moves to save around $326,000 from the state budget.

A bill is in motion through the state’s General Assembly, to ensure that a military honor guard detail will continue to be paid to perform a rifle salute, for around 3,500 military funerals held every year.

A House bill to ensure the continued funding of the military funeral honor for heroes and veterans was introduced by the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and has been filed with the Legislative Commissioners’ Office.

Entitled An Act Honoring Deceased Veterans, the move to protect the traditional mark of respect at every military burial, is widely supported by veterans and veterans’ groups.

Senator Henri Martin, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, said: “Connecticut’s veterans put their lives on the line and sacrificed for our country’s freedoms. It’s unconscionable that the state would deny them this last honor they so rightfully deserve.”

The National Guard will continue to provide a military honor guard of at least three service members to fold and present the American flag to bereaved families and play taps at Connecticut veterans’ military funerals, regardless of the outcome of the state funding bill. This honor, performed at no cost to the family, is mandated by law.

Meanwhile, in California, congressman Duncan Hunter has introduced a bill to increase veteran funeral benefits for America’s brave.

The U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran is calling for an increase in certain funeral and burial benefits available to eligible U.S. services veterans. The proposed Burial Rights for America’s Veterans’ Efforts – BRAVE – Act has been introduced to the House of Representatives by the former U.S. Marine Corps major.

Republican Mr. Hunter, who serves California’s 50th district, has introduced the bill at the 115th Congress, detailing how military burial benefits could be increased annually, in line with the rising cost of other household expenses.

The BRAVE bill, H.R. 1212 is an amended version of a similar bill introduced during the last session of Congress, which had support from both parties, but created concerns over costs.

The modified bill is seeking an increase in veteran death benefits payable to eligible members of the armed services, through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The military burial benefit would cover service-connected deaths and deaths resulting from a disability that was sustained in the line of duty.

Veterans who were receiving a VA pension at the time of their death would also be eligible for the increased veteran funeral benefits, under conditions laid out in the bill, which exclude individuals who were dishonorably discharged.

Mr. Hunter, who was elected to his first term in the House of Representatives in 2008, became the first Marine combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan elected to Congress.

Find out more about arranging a military burial for a U.S. armed services veteran, in our guide to military funerals

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