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A Veterans' benefit                                   This page first appeared on this site March 18, 2009
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               This page last updated November 10, 2012


This page is about a potential option/alternative to a veterans' benefit now available.  It would be less expensive over the long term, and might serve both the veteran population and the population at large in good stead.

It takes a good deal of time and energy to get our government to move on such things.  The veteran for whom this alternative was initially sought has died since initiating the effort.  A family member has taken on the task to carry it further, but has been limited in time and energy and necessary skills, so it drags on.

A little help by way of passing word to members of Congress about what is here might go a long way as an assist and would be most appreciated by the family, as well as PLUSdoesNOTequalAND Publishing.
 


Publishers' Note: March 8, 2011

We ask visitors read through this page completely, from top to bottom.  There is a new message of consequence in the chronology, this date, near the bottom of the page.








Posted March 18, 2009

PUBLISHERS’ NOTE:  With the new President now demonstrating that we may have cause for concern about what he meant by "Change we can use", we feel greater urgency to make this piece available to any who will stop by long enough to read it [even as he commented to an American Legion gathering that he would increase funding to the VA by $25 Billion (amounting to about $85 per month per vet) the news started reporting moves afoot to require service-connected disabled vets to pay for what Reason and tradition have seen as VA responsibilities...for health care even for their service-connected disabilities/conditions out of their own pockets].  We encourage support for the ideas presented by Ms. Feathers in this Open Letter, and have posted this on her behalf.  At her request, while she granted us full rights to the material, we have restricted use by others to private, non-commercial use largely in order to better monitor activity in regards to the concerns addressed .


© PLUSdoesNOTequalAND Publishing.  All rights reserved, but permission is granted for private, non-commercial use, and will generally be freely granted to military- and veteran-oriented organizations on request; please contact the publisher to request permission(s).

+++

19 August 2008                                                                                                                                                                                         posted March 18, 2009

 

 

AN OPEN LETTER

 

To:       Members of The Congress of The United States of America

            and anybody  -- everybody --  else in the country

 

 

Subject:  A Veterans’ Benefit

 

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

This missive may become cumbersome and seemingly overly-detailed, but time being of the essence and non-existent for delays, it has to be fairly comprehensive.  To that end, explanations and support arguments surround and sometimes thread through what may be a seemingly complex presentation of a proposal that is ultimately remarkably simple.

 

 

The percentage of the population that was in uniform at one time in WWII peaked at a level higher than now qualifies for veteran status from any and all conflicts.  And like everybody else, veterans are getting older; the WWII vets are essentially all into 80s and beyond.

 

And dying.  It is to be expected, it is normal, and there’s not a lot can be done to change that anyway.

 

But there is something we can do to change one of the “unintended consequences” resulting from that normal occurrence.

 

For one of the things that has been granted by this country to its veterans, is a burial benefit:  each veteran (with limited exception) is authorized a place in a National Cemetery: a place where that veteran  -- at least the earthly remains --  may “rest in peace”, theoretically “forever”…and that is to be maintained, forever.

 

With now something like 23 million veterans  -- some  2.5 million WWII vets are still around, though dying off at a rate that has been estimated at roughly 900 to 1200 to 1500 each day --  that’s a lot of burial ceremonies, and a lot of ground set aside.

 

Not only does that present a huge construction need, as each new cemetery requires preparation not just for burial plots but for roads and ancillary buildings, but it takes a huge amount of space.  The space needed to provide plots for just the WWII vets alone that are expected to die in the next 20 years (most) is hard to imagine: for, over time, 23 million (and more)  graves?

 

All that space, once so used, becomes “hallowed ground”; it must be maintained, it cannot be used for any other purpose…and it is off the tax rolls…forever.

 

This presents a drain on the country and society for which we  --yes, I am one --  became veterans, many of us literally risking our lives (I count myself both fortunate and unfortunate to have not been in this group); war  -- and being prepared for war --  taking the lives of more than a few.  Most of us, I think it can be fairly said, still love this country and wish it no additional burdens, particularly from us, to be visited upon our progeny.

 

 

This has been a long preface, but shows need and benefit and rationale, for a change I propose to burial benefits for veterans.

 

For many years, I had thought I wanted my remains cremated and interred in the national cemetery where not only my only sibling is buried, but my father, and even my mother, each in their own right.  Yes, my mother served, too.

 

In the last few years, I have reconsidered.  Unsure of options, I was pleased to find that a son (who served as a Marine, RVN ‘69) had an idea for an alternative.  There is, of course, the hurdle of it not being currently available.  But that is only a hurdle, a stumbling block: it can be dealt with, the proposed alternative can become available.

 

For me, and so many of my peers, timeliness is, understandably, a concern.  A heart attack a week ago reminds me that this change needs to become effective as soon as possible, and here it is suggested timing of days if not hours.  Delay of even weeks will ensure that this cost-saving benefit, for good of both veterans and the society at large, will never be available to thousands, even tens of thousands, of veterans.

 

The proposal is this: in lieu of burial, that the cremated remains of veterans, and if done along with those of the veteran and by prior request of the veteran, that veterans’ spouse, could be released from military aircraft at high altitude over the Pacific Ocean.  In lieu of a headstone or plaque or marker, a bronze block the size of a common brick be provided, bearing appropriate information similar to that now placed on headstones and the like, said block presented to the survivors, the block then eligible to be returned to the custody of the federal government for storage at a site at or near the national cemetery at Arlington (and later, as need occurs, similar  sites) until such time as a sufficient number have been accumulated, then to be used in the construction of a non-denominational memorial chapel there.

 

Such a chapel would, essentially, itself become a monument, that would last in essence forever.  As need, and bricks, became available, additional chapels (and/or other significant buildings) could be built at Arlington and/or other national cemeteries.

 

There would be some “details”, such as manufacture of racks that could be used in the aircraft to hold and retain urns (with attached lids, that would open appropriately; even washed out with a spray of water); but there are military personnel in welding shops who are charged with coming up with means to carry out the missions assigned, who might delight in the challenge and opportunity.  [A standardized urn could be provided for remains, which could either be returned to survivors or even recycled into the brick (a fee might reasonably be charged for keeping the urn, as it increases costs for the brick)].  The flights might present some logistics difficulties initially, but training flights necessarily take place all the time in which part of the training involves getting things out of the aircraft.  “Escort” is provided remains within active military, and sometimes for others, so expansion of such service would seem doable; and hardly a drain on manpower, as such would be provided in lieu of gravesite ceremony.  A(nother) chapel at Arlington, and the specifics of design et al, may also provide some hurdles, but nothing comes to mind that seems major, let alone insurmountable.

 

Ultimately, the proposal here is to provide a workable, practical, option, to a benefit already being provided and probably for a significant savings over time.  And it is an option that would, in all likelihood, not only be “cost-effective”, but provide “better” solutions through not creating new problems.

 

 

I now charge and entreat you, Reader of this missive  -- as a Member of Congress, or a veteran, or any other caring individual --  with promptly taking action (even a phone call or an email)  to ensure this option become available to veterans.  I ask you do not hesitate in the least, that it might be available even to me, that my remains might mix with those of my fellow veterans, to eventually fall upon the land I love.  Moments count; this is not about just me, by any stretch, but, if I make it that far, I’ll be 85 years old in November.

 

 

Sincerely

 

 

 

Ruth E. Feathers


*****


ADDENDUM, from Publisher (October, 2009):

When we became aware of this letter, we looked into the actual amount of ground needed to be set aside for interment of currently living veterans [realizing that we seem to keep making more of them].  It turns out that there is a formula used to compute the areas needed: including a "4'x8' casket gravesite" [32 square feet, which  would allow a foot-wide (narrow?) path along one side and one end of a 3'x7' actual grave], the total used to include landscaping and irrigation and roads and buildings, et al, is...36.3 square feet per "casket gravesite", which is 1200 per acre.  In the aggregate, using those seemingly remarkably conservative figures, the country needs to set aside something approaching 20,000 acres, or 31 square miles [close to 1/3 the size of Washington, D.C.], for burial sites for currently living veterans.

One of the things Ms. Feathers is proposing, is to continue to honor what veterans became veterans for, this wonderful country, in preserving, for the living Usanns, some of that area for other uses.  Based on the speed with which Congress has recently demonstrated it can work when it chooses to, as with TARP, Ms. Feathers' request that this become available in "days if not hours" seems both possible and reasonable.
 


Additional Note, October 2010

Ms. Feathers, approaching her 87th birthday, is "in failing health" and not at all as sharp as she was when she started this particular effort.
We ask readers consider contacting their representation in Congress about this possible alternative benefit.  Yes, there are many other things that cry out for attention.  For most of those, there is, quite frankly, probably time; for Ms. Feathers, and her fellow WWII veterans, more than for most of us (all things else being equal), time is probably getting short.

 

Additonal Note, November 11, 2010

Ms. Feathers just reached that 87th birthday a week ago.  Time does not appear to be on her side.
Any and all assistance in getting the change she has requested will be appreciated.



January, 2011

Ms. Feathers seems to more-or-less be holding her own, at least physically; a good sign.  She is, however, seeming to withdraw, becoming less communicative, certainly less animated.  Some of that may be related to diminishing sight and hearing, but it is difficult to determine how much may be due to what.   Again we ask readers to contact the VA and their representation in Congress to encourage  them to make Ms. Feathers' wishes a real option.


_*_*_


                                                         March 5, 2011                              Posted March 8, 2011

We regret to inform that Ms. Feathers passed away quietly this evening,
the benefit alternative she'd hoped for still unavailable.
We knew her, loved her, and believe the world a lesser place without her in it.

We will keep this page on our site, from time to time adding information on the progress  -- or lack of it --  with respect to gaining the alternative Ms. Feathers wanted available for herself and other veterans.
Part of that, we expect, will include a list of which offices were contacted when and with what result,
starting with records from a family member of offices contacted even in just the last week:
it may be of interest to readers and may even help to further the effort.

Where does your representation in Congress stand on this question?

ds







October 6, 2011


We finally have something of relative value to report: the family member most involved in the effort to get the rules of the VA to include, as an option within a current benefit, what Ms. Feathers wanted as final disposition, has shown us something positive.

We have been given a copy of an email from an individual within the VA National Cemetary Administration, documenting what we've been told for some time, that the proper form and direction for a formal submission should be forthcoming shortly.

This is small progress, to be sure, but it is progress and indicates greater progress at a greater rate in the relatively near future.


We will keep you posted.





                                                                        _*_*_

November 15

A relative of Ms. Feathers has advised the publisher that a formal address has finally been discovered which, allegedly, may lead to some action. The whole thing must be presented as a formal proposal, apparently, so there may be some hoops to be jumped through; the key may be how much "hoopsmanship" is required, how much guarding of turf by bureaucrats has to be dealt with.

VFW Magazine recently reported that Arlington is running out of room, and expansion, if possible at all, would be quite expensive.

Since, despite creating new veterans every day, the veteran population has decreased from about 23.5 million when the open letter was written, to about 22 million today, it seems no surprise that cemetaries for veterans might be running out of room.

                                                                        _*_*_

March 5, 2012


Ms. Feathers has been gone a year now, and her cremains continue in the possession of one of her children, awaiting the opportunity for disposition as she wanted.

We have no information of any real progress, and feel we have let her down a bit, in devoting not enough energy to arranging for that opportunity as we put most of our energies to more pressing immediate needs of the living.

We rededicate ourselves to assisting family and others in pursuing the end Ms. Feathers desired for herself and for other veterans similarly inclined.

                                                                        _*_*_

 


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