Bill would expand veterans burial benefits
By GREG MASON | The Observer-Dispatch (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 10, 2017
NEW HARTFORD, Conn. — Donna Osier's family has a history of military service.
Her husband, Chuck Osier, chose to serve in the Air Force for four years during the Vietnam War. Her brother served as a senior petty officer with the U.S. Navy. And before them, her father served in the Navy in Korea. All three were cremated when they died.
Chuck Osier, 64, died in 2015. But like his wife's father and brother, he was not honored with a headstone, marker or medallion from the Veterans Administration because the VA does not offer those burial benefits for veterans that are not laid to rest in a traditional cemetery — something Osier could not accept.
"When my husband passed away, I couldn't believe that it was still not a possibility," said Osier, who lived in Vernon at the time.
Osier has sought to change that policy since her husband's death, working with the offices of former U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna and his successor, U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford.
The fruits of were realized Friday as Tenney introduced the Chuck Osier Benefits Act of 2017.
The bill would expand VA burial benefits. For those who are cremated and laid to rest in a nontraditional resting place, the bill would require the VA to offer either a commemorative urn or a plaque to families, according to Tenney's office.
Tenney cited statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association saying the number of cremations nationwide has risen nearly 50 percent since 2005 — and was preferred over traditional burials for the first time in 2016.
Tenney said the bill will serve to keep pace with these trends.
"We want to make sure that all of those veterans who do have that choice, their families and that veteran are recognized for their service," she said.
Osier, her son Chris and her daughter-in-law Melanie joined Tenney Friday at the congresswoman's New Hartford office — the 242nd birthday of the Marine Corps.
"Without their support and their help, we wouldn't be here today," Osier said of Tenney and Hanna. "I am so, so thankful. This bill is going to allow all of the other families that have nontraditional resting places for their loved ones to have the opportunity to at least receive something from the government that they offered to give so much to."
Tenney pointed to the Chuck Osier Act of 2017 as one of more than a dozen recently introduced before Congress to benefit veterans, including another of hers — the Veterans Entrepreneurs Act — that would create a tax credit to cover a portion of initial franchise fees for veterans looking to start a business.
The congresswoman said Osier's efforts exemplify how laws are made, starting with ideas from the constituency and working up the chain. It's a process Osier said she did not necessarily believe in when she first sought federal assistance more than two years ago.
"Who would listen to me?" she said she asked herself then.
Fast-forward to now, Osier was asked what she thought her husband would say if he still was here.
"He would say, 'You did it. You did it,'" Osier said. "He would start the battles and I would finish them because I don't give up. He'd be proud of me the way I was always proud of him."
©2017 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.
Visit Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y. at www.uticaod.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.