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Commission to review burial policies at N.H. State Veterans Cemetery



Monitor staff
Sunday, May 27, 2018

As people around the country celebrate the men and women who have served in the armed forces during the country’s history, New Hampshire’s cemetery for veterans is facing a few questions about who gets to be buried there.

In particular, the question is whether the veterans cemetery in Boscawen is open to all people who served in the National Guard, even if they were never called to active duty. That status was common in the years before the Gulf War, which is when policies changed so that people once labeled “weekend warriors” began going into combat zones.

“There are constituents who are asking the question, especially those that wore the uniform, went to the same schools as active duty, were in (the Guard) for years ... and they’re treated differently,” said Michael Horn, a retired Air Force colonel and director of the cemetery.

The legislature passed and Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill this month that creates a commission to study several issues with the cemetery, including “whether non-veterans should be eligible to be interred at the cemetery at no expense.”

The commission will also study how much the cemetery should charge spouses and minor children, who are eligible to be buried there and share the veteran’s gravesite. The first two interments when the cemetery opened in 1997 were Navy veteran Ernest Holm and his wife, Hilda.

Eligible veterans are buried for free, while dependents are charged $350. The Veterans Administration pays a plot allowance as part of regular VA benefits, which is currently at $762. One question is whether charges for dependents should be made closer to the plot allowance.

“Some states charge more than New Hampshire does, some do not charge,” Horn said.

The cemetery’s projected 2018 budget is $828,724. Almost half – $403,000 – is expected to come from VA payments for veteran interments and about 12 percent, or $92,000, is expected to come from fees paid for dependents to be interred there. The rest, roughly $333,000, will come from the general fund.

Almost 10,600 people have been interred in the cemetery since it opened 20 years ago. Last year, there were 889 internments, including dependents, Horn said.

The site was originally a town forest. It has about 60 acres that can be used for graves and only 15 acres are currently in use, Horn said.

“It’ll probably take the rest of the century to fill it up,” he said.

Because this is a state veterans cemetery rather than a national cemetery, New Hampshire has some leeway in its rules, although it can’t be less stringent than federal guidelines without risking its VA funding, Horn said.

As an example, Horn pointed to residency.

Unlike many state veterans cemeteries, you do not have to be a resident of New Hampshire to be buried here. If you served your country, you can be laid to rest in Boscawen.

Under state law, the committee consists of three members of the House of Representatives, one from the finance committee, one senator, and Horn or his designee.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313, or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)