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114th Congress   }                                      {       Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session     }                                      {      114-312

======================================================================



 
            DIGNIFIED INTERMENT OF OUR VETERANS ACT OF 2015

                                _______
                                

October 26, 2015.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

    Mr. Miller of Florida, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 1338]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 1338) to require the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to conduct a study on matters relating to the burial of 
unclaimed remains of veterans in national cemeteries, and for 
other purposes, having considered the same, report favorably 
thereon with an amendment and recommend that the bill as 
amended do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Amendment........................................................     2
Purpose and Summary..............................................     2
Background and Need for Legislation..............................     2
Hearings.........................................................     3
Subcommittee Consideration.......................................     3
Committee Consideration..........................................     3
Committee Votes..................................................     4
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     4
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     4
New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures     4
Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits.............................     4
Committee Cost Estimate..........................................     5
Congressional Budget Office Estimate.............................     5
Federal Mandates Statement.......................................     6
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................     6
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................     6
Applicability to Legislative Branch..............................     6
Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs.....................     6
Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking................................     7
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation...................     7
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............     7

                Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute

    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Dignified Interment of Our Veterans 
Act of 2015''.

SEC. 2. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS STUDY ON MATTERS RELATING TO 
                    BURIAL OF UNCLAIMED REMAINS OF VETERANS IN NATIONAL 
                    CEMETERIES.

  (a) Study and Report Required.--Not later than one year after the 
date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
shall--
          (1) complete a study on matters relating to the interring of 
        unclaimed remains of veterans in national cemeteries under the 
        control of the National Cemetery Administration; and
          (2) submit to Congress a report on the findings of the 
        Secretary with respect to the study required under paragraph 
        (1).
  (b) Matters Studied.--The matters studied under subsection (a)(1) 
shall include the following:
          (1) Determining the scope of issues relating to unclaimed 
        remains of veterans, including an estimate of the number of 
        unclaimed remains of veterans.
          (2) Assessing the effectiveness of the procedures of the 
        Department of Veterans Affairs for working with persons or 
        entities having custody of unclaimed remains to facilitate 
        interment of unclaimed remains of veterans in national 
        cemeteries under the control of the National Cemetery 
        Administration.
          (3) Assessing State and local laws that affect the ability of 
        the Secretary to inter unclaimed remains of veterans in 
        national cemeteries under the control of the National Cemetery 
        Administration.
          (4) Developing recommendations for such legislative or 
        administrative action as the Secretary considers appropriate.
  (c) Methodology.--
          (1) Number of unclaimed remains.--In estimating the number of 
        unclaimed remains of veterans under subsection (b)(1), the 
        Secretary may review such subset of applicable entities as the 
        Secretary considers appropriate, including a subset of funeral 
        homes and coroner offices that possess unclaimed veterans 
        remains.
          (2) Assessment of state and local laws.--In assessing State 
        and local laws under subsection (b)(3), the Secretary may 
        assess such sample of applicable State and local laws as the 
        Secretary considers appropriate in lieu of reviewing all 
        applicable State and local laws.

SEC. 3. LIMITATION ON AWARDS AND BONUSES PAID TO SENIOR EXECUTIVE 
                    EMPLOYEES OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  Section 705 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 
2014 (Public Law 113-146; 38 U.S.C. 703 note) is amended by striking 
the period at the end and inserting the following: ``, of which, during 
fiscal year 2016, not more than an aggregate amount of $2,000,000 may 
be paid to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs who are 
members of the Senior Executive Service.''.

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 1338, as amended, the ``Dignified Interment of Our 
Veterans Act of 2015,'' was introduced by Representative Bill 
Shuster of Pennsylvania on March 6, 2015. This legislation 
would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to 
conduct a study and report to Congress on matters relating to 
the interment of the unclaimed remains of deceased veterans in 
our national cemeteries to ensure they are treated with dignity 
and respect. It would also limit awards and bonuses paid to VA 
employees who are members of the Senior Executive Service 
during fiscal year 2016 to not more than an aggregate of 
$2,000,000.

                  Background and Need for Legislation

    In 2013, Congress enacted the Dignified Burial and Other 
Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2012, which authorized VA 
to provide burial benefits in a national cemetery for the 
unclaimed remains of deceased veterans with no known next of 
kin and who do not have sufficient financial resources for this 
purpose. Such burial benefits include reimbursements for the 
cost of a casket or urn, for costs of transportation to the 
nearest national cemetery, and for certain other funeral 
expenses.
    During the June 24, 2015, Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs hearing, Representative Shuster 
testified that despite passage of the Dignified Burial and 
Other Veteran's Benefits Act of 2012, there are currently 
47,000 unclaimed, uninterred veterans. This testimony raises 
serious concerns regarding the effectiveness of VA, State, 
City, County, and other municipality policies with respect to 
identifying and interring such remains.
    The Committee strongly believes that the remains of 
deceased veterans should be treated with the utmost dignity and 
respect. H.R. 1338, as amended, would require the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on matters relating to 
obtaining and interring of unclaimed veteran remains. The 
intent of the study is to confirm the scope of this problem, 
uncover any barriers associated with claiming and interring 
veteran remains, and solicit recommendations from VA on 
improvements to our Nation's collective ability to identity and 
inter veteran remains.

                                Hearings

    On June 24, 2015, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance 
and Memorial Affairs conducted a legislative hearing on various 
bills introduced during the 114th Congress, including H.R. 
1338.
    The following witnesses testified:
    The Honorable Bill Johnson, U.S. House of Representatives; 
Mr. David R. McLenachen, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for 
Disability Assistance, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. 
Department of Veterans Affairs; Mr. Zachary Hearn, Deputy 
Director for Claims, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation 
Division, The American Legion; Mr. Paul R. Varela, Assistant 
National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans; Mr. 
Aleks Morosky, Deputy Director, National Legislative Service, 
Veterans of Foreign Wars; Ms. Diane Zumatto, National 
Legislative Director, AMVETS; and Mr. Chris Neiweem, 
Legislative Associate, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of 
America.
    Statements for the record were submitted by the following:
    The Honorable Bob Latta, U.S. House of Representatives; the 
Honorable Bill Shuster, U.S. House of Representatives; and the 
Paralyzed Veterans of America.

                       Subcommittee Consideration

    On July 9, 2015, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance 
and Memorial Affairs met in open markup session, a quorum being 
present, and favorably forwarded H.R. 1338 to the full 
Committee.

                        Committee Consideration

    On September 17, 2015, the full Committee met in an open 
markup session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 1338, 
as amended, reported favorably to the House of Representatives 
by voice vote.
    During consideration of the bill, the following amendment 
was offered and agreed to by voice vote:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 1338, 
offered by Mr. Abraham of Louisiana, which included the 
contents of H.R. 1338 and inserted a provision that would limit 
awards and bonuses paid to VA Senior Executive Service 
employees during fiscal year 2016, by not more than an 
aggregate amount of $2,000,000.

                            Committee Votes

    Clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires the Committee to list the recorded 
votes on the motion to report the legislation and amendments 
thereto. There were no recorded votes taken on amendments or in 
connection with ordering H.R. 1338, as amended, reported to the 
House. A motion by Ranking Member Corrine Brown of Florida to 
report H.R. 1338, as amended, favorably to the House of 
Representatives was agreed to by voice vote.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

             Statement of Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee establishes the 
following performance related goals and objectives for this 
legislation:
    VA will use the authority granted by this legislation to 
conduct a study that would assist in forming policies to better 
identify and inter unclaimed remains of deceased veterans and 
develop recommendations to improve the effectiveness of VA 
State, City, County, and other municipality procedures for 
identifying and interring unclaimed remains of deceased 
veterans. Further, VA would be required to submit a report to 
Congress detailing the findings of this study.

   New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee adopts as its 
own the estimate of new budget authority, entitlement 
authority, or tax expenditures or revenues contained in the 
cost estimate prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974.

                  Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits

    H.R. 1338, as amended, does not contain any Congressional 
earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as 
defined in clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives.

                        Committee Cost Estimate

    The Committee adopts as its own the cost estimate on H.R. 
1338, as amended, prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974.

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the following is the cost estimate 
for H.R. 1338, as amended, provided by the Congressional Budget 
Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act 
of 1974:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                  Washington, DC, October 22, 2015.
Hon. Jeff Miller,
Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1338, the 
Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act of 2015.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Dwayne M. 
Wright.
            Sincerely,
                                                        Keith Hall.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 1338--Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act of 2015

    H.R. 1338 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) to limit the amounts of awards and bonuses paid to senior 
executive service (SES) employees and require VA to study 
matters related to unclaimed remains of veterans. On net, CBO 
estimates that implementing H.R. 1338 would reduce costs by $1 
million over the 2016-2020 period, assuming appropriation 
actions consistent with the bill. Enacting H.R. 1338 would not 
affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go 
procedures do not apply.
    Section 3 would limit to $2 million the total amount VA 
could pay in awards and bonuses to SES employees in 2016. From 
2008 to 2012, VA paid an average of about $3.5 million each 
year in such awards and bonuses. Assuming such payments will 
continue at about that level under current law, adjusted for 
inflation, CBO estimates that implementing section 3 would 
reduce discretionary spending for personnel by about $2 million 
over the 2016-2020 period, assuming appropriation actions 
consistent with the bill.
    Section 2 would require VA to complete a study and submit a 
report to the Congress on issues and procedures related to 
burying unclaimed remains of veterans in national cemeteries 
under the control of the National Cemetery Administration. As 
part of the study, VA would need to contact funeral homes and 
coroner offices around the nation to estimate the number of 
such remains; assess state and local laws that affect VA's 
ability to take custody of such remains; and, develop 
recommendations for legislative and administrative actions 
needed to enable VA to inter all such remains in national 
cemeteries. Based on information from VA, CBO estimates that 
implementing section 2 within the one-year period allotted 
would cost $1 million over the 2016-2020 period, assuming 
appropriation of the necessary amounts.
    CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 1338 would not increase 
net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2026.
    H.R. 1338 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    On June 9, 2015, CBO transmitted an estimate for H.R. 1607, 
the Ruth Moore Act of 2015, as ordered reported by the House 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs on May 21, 2015. Section 3 of 
H.R. 1607 would limit the amount VA could pay in bonuses to SES 
staff over the 2016-2018 period, whereas section 3 of H.R. 1338 
would limit the amount VA could pay in bonuses to SES employees 
only in 2016. CBO's estimates of the budgetary effects for 
those provisions reflect that difference in bill language.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Dwayne M. 
Wright. The estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                       Federal Mandates Statement

    The Committee adopts as its own the estimate of Federal 
mandates regarding H.R. 1338, as amended, prepared by the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office pursuant to section 
423 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

                      Advisory Committee Statement

    No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b) 
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act would be created by H.R. 
1338, as amended.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the United States 
Constitution, the reported bill is authorized by Congress' 
power to ``provide for the common Defense and general Welfare 
of the United States.''

                  Applicability to Legislative Branch

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to 
the terms and conditions of employment or access to public 
services or accommodations within the meaning of section 
102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act.

              Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs

    Pursuant to section 3(g) of H. Res. 5, 114th Cong. (2015), 
the Committee finds that no provision of H.R. 1338, as amended, 
establishes or reauthorizes a program of the Federal Government 
known to be duplicative of another Federal program, a program 
that was included in any report from the Government 
Accountability Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of 
Public Law 111-139, or a program related to a program 
identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic 
Assistance.

                   Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking

    Pursuant to section 3(i) of H. Res. 5, 114th Cong. (2015), 
the Committee estimates that H.R. 1338, as amended, contains no 
directed rule making that would require the Secretary to 
prescribe regulations.

             Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation


Section 1--Short title

    Section 1 would establish the bill's short title as the 
``Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act of 2015''.

Section 2--Department of Veterans Affairs study on matters relating to 
        burial of unclaimed remains of veterans in national cemeteries

    Section 2(a) would require VA to (1) complete a study on 
matters relating to the interring of unclaimed remains of 
veterans in national cemeteries; and (2) submit a report to 
Congress within one year of enactment.
    Section 2(b) would require that the study mandated by 
Section 2(a) include: (1) a determination of the scope of 
issues relating to unclaimed remains of veterans, including an 
estimate of the number of unclaimed remains of veterans; (2) an 
assessment of the effectiveness of VA's procedures for working 
with persons having custody of unclaimed remains to facilitate 
interment of unclaimed remains of veterans in national 
cemeteries; (3) an analysis of State and local laws that affect 
the ability of the Secretary to inter unclaimed remains of 
veterans in national cemeteries; and (4) recommendations for 
such legislative or administrative action as the Secretary 
considers appropriate.
    Section 2(c) would establish the methodology for completing 
the study, including how VA should estimate the number of 
unclaimed remains and how to review state and local laws.

Section 3--Limitation on awards and bonuses paid to Senior Executive 
        employees of Department of Veterans Affairs

    Section 3 of this bill would limit the awards and bonuses 
paid to VA employees who are members of the Senior Executive 
Service to not more than the aggregate amount of $2,000,000 
during fiscal year 2016.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, and existing law in which no 
change is proposed is shown in roman):

VETERANS ACCESS, CHOICE, AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2014

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *



TITLE VII--OTHER VETERANS MATTERS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SEC. 705. LIMITATION ON AWARDS AND BONUSES PAID TO EMPLOYEES OF 
                    DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  In each of fiscal years 2015 through 2024, the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs shall ensure that the aggregate amount of 
awards and bonuses paid by the Secretary in a fiscal year under 
chapter 45 or 53 of title 5, United States Code, or any other 
awards or bonuses authorized under such title does not exceed 
$360,000,000[.], of which, during fiscal year 2016, not more 
than an aggregate amount of $2,000,000 may be paid to employees 
of the Department of Veterans Affairs who are members of the 
Senior Executive Service.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


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