SGT. SHAFT: Estranged widow can be buried with veteran

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Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My husband is buried at the RIverside National Cemetery. He died, April 25, 1987, and was interred May 12, 1987. What are the requirements for spouse burial?

Due to his alcoholism and abuse we were separated at the time of his death but not divorced. Thanks to his lack of financial support for his family and his alcoholic expenditures, retirement savings were impossible.

I live on my Social Security and am concerned about final expenses.

Please advise.

Anne S.
Via the Internet

Dear Anne:

Surviving spouses are eligible for burial with their veteran husband or wife. Divorced spouses or spouses who had their marriage annulled are ineligible. The rules do not address separation, so she was legally married to the veteran at the time of his death, and she is indeed eligible for burial at a national cemetery.

Shaft notes

• The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Veterans Fiduciary Reform and Honoring Noble Service Act (H.R. 5948), which includes language sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican and vice-chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive proper burial in the absence of next of kin or adequate finances.

“Our nation’s heroes deserve to be buried the same way they served this country — with dignity and honor. By ensuring our veterans receive proper burial upon their passing, we are not only recognizing their brave service to our country, but also the selfless sacrifices our service men and women and their families make to protect the freedoms and values we enjoy as citizens of this great country.”

The language was proposed by Mr. Bilirakis after it was discovered that Pvt. Lawrence Davis Jr., a World War II veteran with no next of kin, was buried in a cardboard box at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Fla.

In addition to providing for the proper burial of veterans, the Veterans Fiduciary Reform and Honoring Noble Service Act would require the VA to perform credit and criminal background checks for each fiduciary it appoints, establish an appeals process so that a veteran can appeal should he or she lose confidence in a VA-appointed fiduciary, and allow veterans to appeal their status of financial incompetence.

The VA’s Fiduciary Program serves the needs of veterans who are deemed financially incompetent to manage their financial affairs.

Lack of oversight of the VA’s Fiduciary Program has resulted in veterans being denied access to their benefits, veterans and their families having their power turned off after the fiduciary failed to pay the bill, and millions of dollars being stolen from veterans by fiduciaries. For too long, VA fiduciaries have abused the system and subverted the rights of the veterans they were entrusted to protect, in some cases for personal gain.

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