Vet-Tec Authorization Act of 2023

Floor Speech

Date: May 22, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BERGMAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for all of his support for these bills that not only make life better for the veterans but also for their families.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 1669, the VET-TEC Authorization Act, which, as amended, includes the text of legislation I originally introduced as H.R. 234, Gerald's Law.

Gerald's Law was drafted and introduced on behalf of Gerald Elliott, a U.S. Army veteran and a resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well as on behalf of his family and the thousands of other veterans like him.

A lifelong Yooper, Jerry was a member of The American Legion Post 363 and was an active volunteer with U.P. Honor Flight and the Iron Mountain VA Hospital.

After a cancer diagnosis in 2019, Gerald received his care at the Iron Mountain VA. As the disease progressed and he was placed on hospice care, he decided to go home to enjoy his final days with his family.

Following his death, Jerry's family discovered that even though he received hospice care through the VA, his family did not qualify for burial benefits after his death; that is, burial benefits for Jerry himself. That is because under current law, VA hospice care provided at home does not qualify as a death under VA care and is, therefore, not covered under the nonservice-connected burial and plot benefit.

As a result of this quirk, if a veteran with a terminal illness wants the full burial benefit, they would be forced to die in a hospital or nursing home under the VA auspices instead of transferring to home hospice care. This is just, I am sure, a mistake. This injustice is unacceptable and unconscionable.

No veteran should worry about losing VA benefits for their family when choosing to spend their final days in the comfort of their own home. Gerald's Law will address this by extending VA burial allowance eligibility to veterans whose passing occurs at home while receiving VA hospice care if they were previously receiving VA hospital or nursing home care.

I am thankful for the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs for their work to assist the thousands of veterans and family members being denied benefits due to this legislative oversight.

H.R. 1669, which includes Gerald's Law and other bipartisan, commonsense reforms, was approved unanimously by the committee in April.

Mr. Speaker, I urge every Member of Congress, every Member of the House, to support its passage on the House floor today.