June 16, 2021

Senator Hassan Presses VA Secretary on Critical Priorities for NH Veterans, Calls for Expanding Burial Benefits at NH State Veterans Cemetery to All Service Members

Senator Hassan also Underscores Need for a Full-Service VA Hospital in New Hampshire and Highlights Her Bipartisan Bill to Address Veteran Suicide

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan today during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing pressed Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough on a number of critical priorities for New Hampshire veterans, including expanding eligibility for burials in state veteran cemeteries to all service members, building a full-service VA hospital in New Hampshire, and addressing the veteran suicide rate. 

 

To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.

 

Senator Hassan highlighted bipartisan legislation that she helped introduce along with Senator Jeanne Shaheen to ensure that Guard Members and Reservists are eligible to be buried in state veterans cemeteries. 

 

“The National Cemetery Administration has made increased access to burial benefits a strategic goal. This includes providing additional grant funding to state and tribal organizations...As a condition of receiving VA money for improvements, state veterans cemeteries are barred from interning many National Guard members and Reservists,” Senator Hassan said. 

 

Senator Hassan also emphasized to Secretary McDonough that New Hampshire does not have a full-service VA hospital and urged him to prioritize VA funding to address this unmet need in the state: “We need to make sure that any VA funding that goes toward infrastructure adequately addresses the need of Granite State veterans.”

 

When asked whether the VA takes into account whether a state has a full-service VA hospital when developing a budget plan for future infrastructure projects, Secretary McDonough confirmed that they do. 

 

“I’d love to continue to work with you to make sure that – especially as we deal with the needs for community care and improved infrastructure – the resources we have in New Hampshire are attended to,” Senator Hassan said. 

 

Senator Hassan went on to discuss the urgent need to address veteran suicide through initiatives like the Solid Start program, which aims to contact every veteran three times by phone in the first year after they leave active duty to check in and help connect them to VA programs and benefits. Recently, Senator Hassan led a bipartisan group of her colleagues in reintroducing legislation to strengthen and make permanent this critical program. 

 

“So often, the benefits package is the introduction to VA services for our vets and we want to make sure that that introduction is not only professional, transparent, based on the customer service and a positive experience, but that is also opens the door to the full range of services we have. So being in touch with our vets, including about introducing them to all of our services, including, when necessary, mental health services, is really important,” said Secretary McDonough.

 

###