The Veterans Administration (VA) is soliciting comments on proposed regulations which would implement a statutory requirement making tribal organizations eligible for federal grants to establish, expand, and improve veterans’ cemeteries on trust lands. The attached May 19, 2011, FEDERAL REGISTER notice explains that the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 (PL109-461) required the VA to administer the cemetery grants program for tribal organizations in the same manner that grants are made to states. Also eligible for the cemetery grants is the Department of Hawaiian Homelands. The term “trust lands” would include lands held in trust by the United States, Native Hawaiian homelands, lands owned by Alaska Regional and Village corporations, and lands “on any island in the Pacific Ocean if such land is, by cultural tradition, communally-owned land, as determined by the Secretary [of Veterans Affairs].”
The VA pays up to 100 percent of the cost associated with the establishment, expansion, and improvement of a veterans cemetery, as well as the cost of initial operating equipment. The VA is proposing to change its regulations to make it clear that tribal organizations are eligible for the grants and the name of the administering entity would be changed from “State Cemetery Grants Service” to “Veterans Cemetery Grants Service.”
Currently the VA requires a state applying for a grant to submit a copy of legislation authorizing the establishment, maintenance and operation of the veterans cemetery. In recognition that authorization for a cemetery may be in a form other than legislation, the VA proposes to delete the requirement that the authorization be in the form of legislation and instead ask for a copy of the action authorizing the establishment, maintenance, and operation of the veterans cemetery.
The VA notes that it wrote to tribes in 2008 about this matter and has held a conference call and had other forms of communications with tribes, but has not received any written comments about making tribal organizations eligible for the veterans’ cemetery grants. The deadline for comments on the proposed rule is July 18, 2011.
Please let us know if we may provide additional information or assistance regarding the proposed regulations for the veterans cemetery grants program.