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State agency explains funding strategy for unaccompanied veteran burials

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Posted at 9:31 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 15:05:13-04

AUSTIN, TX — For the past four years, the Texas Veterans Land Board has held burial services for veterans who have no known next of kin. The program ensures that while these veterans are laid to rest unaccompanied, they are far from alone.

It’s an invaluable service, but it does come at a cost. Central Texas News Now wanted to know how the state agency planned to fund the initiative for the future.

“We have spent upward of $350,000 on our unaccompanied veterans,” said Eric Brown, deputy director, Texas State Veterans Cemeteries.

The average cost of a basic veterans funeral service is about $3,000. The state does not differentiate between the costs of a burial for veterans who have family, and those who do not.

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“We plan on cementing our partnership, great partnership, with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides great grant funding opportunities which helps us offset some of the operational costs,” said Brown.

But this isn’t the only funding mechanism. Some may think taxpayer dollars fund the initiative, but instead, it is investments that keep the program moving forward.

The Texas General Land Office manages state lands and mineral rights totaling 13 million acres.

"Revenue from land managed by the GLO goes into the Permanent School Fund. However, the investment income that goes to fund the Texas State Veterans Cemeteries is related to bond money generated by the Veterans Land Board," said Karina Erickson, Communications Director.

She says that the agency has a deep history serving our veterans.

"In 1946, the Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) was created by the Texas Legislature. Several years later, the Board was authorized to issue $25 million in bonds, the proceeds of which were to be for buying land to resell to Texas Veterans who served in World War II. Initially, the Veteran could purchase a minimum of twenty acres of land, but no loan could exceed $7,500. Two years later, an amendment expanded the program benefits to Veterans of the Korean War and the program has continued since," said Erickson.

But private donations are still very much needed.

“Donations cannot be applied to operations but they can be used to enhance and improve the visitor experience at a hallowed ground,” said Brown.

It doesn’t have to be monetary donations.

“Something as simple as seating accommodations. When I first began with the program, I recall seeing folks take lawn chairs out of their cars,” said Brown. He says he suggested bench donations to support veteran funerals.

While there is a price tag that comes along with laying our unaccompanied veterans to rest, leaders in the organization say it is a program with a future.

“We may not know about the specific life of a veteran, but we do know about their service. So with the unaccompanied veteran, we want to recognize and honor that service,” said Brown.

There have been one hundred sixteen unaccompanied veterans laid to rest in Texas since the program began.

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