Committal Services, Memorial Services and Funeral Honors

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 152 (Wednesday, August 7, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 152 (Wednesday, August 7, 2019)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 38556-38558]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-16915]
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DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
38 CFR Part 38
RIN 2900-AQ35
Committal Services, Memorial Services and Funeral Honors
AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.
ACTION: Final rule.
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SUMMARY: This final rule reflects current VA practices relative to
respecting the expressed wishes of the personal representative when
making arrangements for the committal or memorial service. The final
rule clarifies the process for requesting committal or memorial
services when requesting interment at VA national cemeteries and
addresses access to public areas at VA national cemeteries. The final
rule also addresses when committal services may be conducted at a
gravesite rather than in a committal shelter and standardizes measures
to implement the statutory requirement that VA notify the personal
representative of the funeral honors available to the deceased veteran.
DATES: This final rule is effective September 6, 2019.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Melvin Gerrets, Office of the Director
of Cemetery Operations, National Cemetery Administration (NCA),
Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC
20420. Telephone: (202) 461-9646 (this is not a toll-free number).
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VA published a proposed rule in the Federal
Register on March 25, 2019 (84 FR 11037), to address committal or
memorial services and funeral honors at VA national cemeteries,
including current VA practices, under 38 U.S.C. 2404(h), relative to
respecting the expressed wishes of the personal representative when
making arrangements for the committal or memorial service. The
amendments also clarified the process for requesting interment at VA
national cemeteries, defined when a committal service may be conducted
at a gravesite rather than in a committal shelter, and included
measures to implement the statutory requirement that VA notify the
personal representative of the funeral honors available to the deceased
veteran. VA received no comments on the proposed rule during the
comment period, which ended on May 25, 2019. Based on the rationale set
forth in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION to the proposed rule, we are
adopting the provisions of the proposed rule as a final rule without
change.
Effect of Rulemaking
    Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as revised by this
final rulemaking, represents VA's implementation of its legal authority
on this subject. Other than future amendments to this regulation or
governing statutes, no contrary guidance or procedures are authorized.
All existing or subsequent VA guidance must be read to conform with
this rulemaking if possible or, if not possible, such guidance is
superseded by this rulemaking.
Paperwork Reduction Act
    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507) requires that
VA consider the impact of paperwork and other information collection
burdens imposed on the public. Under 44 U.S.C. 3507(a), an agency may
not collect or sponsor the collection of information, nor may it impose
an information collection requirement, unless it displays a currently
valid Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number. See also 5
CFR 1320.8(b)(2)(vi). This final rule contains provisions constituting
collection of information at 38 CFR 38.619(a) and (b), and at 38 CFR
38.619(f)(5).
    The information collection at Sec.  38.619(a) and (b) is necessary
to establish eligibility for national cemetery burial and to schedule
and plan interments. This information collection is currently approved
by OMB and has been assigned OMB control number 2900-0232. The burden
of this information collection would remain unchanged.
    This final rule also imposes new information collection
requirements at 38 CFR 38.619(f)(5). This new information collection is
a certification requirement for non-DoD funeral honors providers, that
will help ensure the safety of cemetery visitors and staff and maintain
the decorum of the national cemeteries by requiring that non-DoD
funeral honors providers that perform funeral honors activities at VA
national cemeteries certify to VA that they will comply with
requirements set forth in the regulation. As required by 44 U.S.C.
3507(d), VA submitted the new information collection to OMB for its
review. The Office of Management and Budget has assigned the
information collection requirement in this section under control number
2900-0865. The information collection is pending OMB approval. VA will
not collect information associated with the funeral honors providers
certification until OMB approves the associated information collection.
Regulatory Flexibility Act
    The Secretary hereby certifies that this final rule will not have a
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities
as they are defined in the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601-
612. Even to the extent some veterans service organizations that
provide funeral honors could be viewed as ``small entities'' as defined
in 5 U.S.C. 601(4), (6), this final rule will not have a significant
economic impact on them because it concerns only the standards of
conduct those groups must abide by when conducting funeral honors in
national cemeteries. Therefore, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 605(b), this final
rule would be exempt from the initial and final
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regulatory flexibility analysis requirements of 5 U.S.C. 603 and 604.
Executive Orders 12866, 13563, and 13771
    Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess the
costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, when
regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize
net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public
health and safety effects, and other advantages; distributive impacts;
and equity). Executive Order 13563 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory
Review) emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and
benefits, reducing costs, harmonizing rules, and promoting flexibility.
Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review) defines a
``significant regulatory action,'' which requires review by the Office
of Management and Budget (OMB), as ``any regulatory action that is
likely to result in a rule that may: (1) Have an annual effect on the
economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way
the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs,
the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal
governments or communities; (2) Create a serious inconsistency or
otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency;
(3) Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user
fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients
thereof; or (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in
this Executive Order.''
    VA has examined the economic, interagency, budgetary, legal, and
policy implications of this final rule action and determined that the
action is not a significant regulatory action under Executive Order
12866. This final rule is not a E.O. 13771 regulatory action because
this final rule is not significant under E.O. 12866.
Unfunded Mandates
    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 requires, at 2 U.S.C.
1532, that agencies prepare an assessment of anticipated costs and
benefits before issuing any rule that may result in the expenditure by
State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the
private sector, of $100 million or more (adjusted annually for
inflation) in any one year. This final rule would have no such effect
on State, local, and tribal governments, or on the private sector.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
    The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance numbers and titles for
the programs affected by this document are 64.201 National Cemeteries;
64.202 Procurement of Headstones and Markers and/or Presidential
Memorial Certificates; and, 64.203 State Cemetery Grants.
List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 38
    Administrative practice and procedure, Cemeteries, Veterans,
Claims, Crime, Criminal offenses.
Signing Authority
    The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, or designee, approved this
document and authorized the undersigned to sign and submit the document
to the Office of the Federal Register for publication electronically as
an official document of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Robert L.
Wilkie, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, approved this
document on August 1, 2019, for publication.
    Dated: August 2, 2019.
Luvenia Potts,
Program Specialist, Office of Regulation Policy & Management, Office of
the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, VA amends 38 CFR part 38
as follows:
PART 38--NATIONAL CEMETERIES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
0
1. The authority citation for part 38 continues to read as follows:
    Authority: 38 U.S.C. 107, 501, 512, 2306, 2402, 2403, 2404,
2407, 2408, 2411, 7105.
0
2. Add Sec.  38.619 to read as follows:
Sec.  38.619   Requests for interment, committal services or memorial
services, and funeral honors.
    (a) Interment requests. A personal representative, as defined in
Sec.  38.600, may request interment of an eligible decedent in a
national cemetery by contacting the National Cemetery Scheduling Office
(NCSO) at 1-800-535-1117.
    (1) Required information. VA will request the following information
from the decedent's personal representative at the time of the request
for interment to allow VA to schedule the interment for the decedent:
    (i) Documentation of the decedent's eligibility for national
cemetery interment. If needed, VA will make reasonable efforts to
assist the personal representative in obtaining such documentation;
    (ii) Preferred date and time for the interment;
    (iii) Whether a committal service is requested (a committal service
is not required);
    (iv) Whether the remains are in a casket or urn. For cremated
remains, the personal representative will be advised to present a
certificate of cremation or other documentation sufficient to identify
the decedent at the time of interment.
    (v) The size of the casket or urn.
    (vi) The contact information for the personal representative.
    (vii) Whether a private vault will be provided to the national
cemetery or a government-furnished grave liner is required.
    (viii) Whether the personal representative intends to have funeral
honors during the committal service, if the decedent is a veteran.
    (ix) Other relevant information necessary to establish or confirm
eligibility of the decedent and/or for cemetery logistics and planning.
    (2) [Reserved].
    (b) Memorial services requests. The personal representative may
request a memorial service for a decedent who is eligible for interment
in a VA national cemetery. Memorial services may be conducted if the
decedent's cremated remains will be scattered and will not be interred,
or if the remains of the eligible individual are otherwise not
available for interment, or were previously interred without a
committal service. The personal representative may request the memorial
service by contacting the National Cemetery Scheduling Office (NCSO) at
1-800-535-1117 and providing the following required information:
    (1) Documentation of the decedent's eligibility for national
cemetery interment. If needed, VA will make reasonable efforts to
assist the personal representative in obtaining such documentation;
    (2) Preferred date and time for the memorial service;
    (3) The contact information for the personal representative;
    (4) Whether the personal representative intends to have funeral
honors services during the memorial service, if the decedent is a
veteran;
    (5) Other relevant information necessary to establish or confirm
eligibility of the decedent and/or for cemetery logistics and planning.
    (c) Content of committal or memorial services. VA will respect and
defer to the expressed wishes of the personal representative for the
content and conduct of a committal or memorial service, including the
display of
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religious or other symbols chosen by the family, the use of all
appropriate public areas, and the selection of funeral honors
providers, provided that the safety and security of the national
cemetery and its visitors are not adversely affected.
    (d) Location of services. Committal or memorial services at VA
national cemeteries will be held in committal shelters located away
from the gravesite to ensure accessibility and visitor safety, unless
the cemetery director determines that a committal shelter is not
available for logistical reasons, or the cemetery director approves a
request from the personal representative for a gravesite service. A
request for a gravesite service may be approved by the cemetery
director if:
    (1) The service is requested by the decedent's personal
representative for religious reasons; and
    (2) The request is made sufficiently prior to the scheduled
committal service to ensure the gravesite is accessible; and
    (3) The cemetery director has sufficient staffing resources for the
gravesite service, and
    (4) The site can be safely accessed on the day of the service.
    (e) Witnessing interment without additional services. When
scheduling the interment, the decedent's personal representative may
request to witness the interment of the decedent's remains without
additional services at the committal shelter. Approval of a request for
witness-only interment is at the discretion of the cemetery director,
and may be made only if:
    (1) The timing of the request provides sufficient time to ensure
the gravesite is accessible, and;
    (2) The site can be safely accessed on the day of the interment.
This determination may require limiting the number of individuals who
may witness the interment and other logistics, such as distance from
the gravesite, as the cemetery director finds necessary.
    (f) Funeral honors--(1) List of organizations providing funeral
honors. Each cemetery director will maintain a list of organizations
that will, upon request, provide funeral honors at the cemetery at no
cost to the family. Each list must include DoD funeral honors contacts.
Non-DoD funeral honors providers who want to be included on the list
must make a request to the cemetery director and meet the requirements
of paragraph (f)(5) of this section.
    (2) Request required. Funeral honors will be provided at a
committal or memorial service for an eligible individual only if
requested by the decedent's personal representative. When scheduling a
committal or memorial service for a veteran or other eligible
individual who served in the U.S. armed forces, the NCSO will make
available to the personal representative the list of available funeral
honors providers, as described in paragraph (f)(1) of this section, for
the cemetery where interment or services are to be scheduled. The
decedent's personal representative may choose any funeral honors
provider(s) on the list provided by VA, and/or any other organization
that provides funeral honors services.
    (3) Agreement. Any agreement to provide funeral honors is
exclusively between the organization(s) providing funeral honors and
the decedent's personal representative. The composition of a funeral
honors detail, as well as the specific content of the ceremony provided
during a committal or memorial service is dependent on available
resources of the providing organization(s). The Department of Defense
(DoD) is responsible for determining eligibility for funeral honors
provided by a DoD funeral honors detail. If funeral honors are provided
by a combined detail that includes one or more funeral honors
providers, all providers must provide services as requested by the
personal representative.
    (4) Requirements for all funeral honors providers. All
organizations performing funeral honors at VA national cemeteries,
including DoD organizations and any provider selected by the personal
representative that is not on the list of providers provided by VA
under paragraph (f)(1) of this section, must:
    (i) Provide to the cemetery director the name and contact
information of a representative for the organization who is accountable
for funeral honors activities; and
    (ii) Comply with VA security, safety, and law enforcement
regulations under 38 CFR 1.218; and
    (iii) Maintain and operate any equipment in a safe manner
consistent with VA and DoD policies and regulations; and
    (iv) Not solicit for or accept donations on VA property except as
authorized under 38 CFR 1.218(a)(8).
    (5) Additional requirements for non-DoD funeral honors providers.
Non-DoD funeral honors providers, including any provider selected by
the personal representative that is not on the list of providers
provided by VA under paragraph (f)(1) of this section, must certify
that:
    (i) They will comply with the requirements in subparagraphs (f)(4)
of this section;
    (ii) They are conducting activities on federal property as an
independent entity, not as an agent or employee of VA, unless
registered as a VA volunteer;
    (iii) Members of the organization who will conduct the funeral
honors have completed training on funeral honors tasks and the safe use
of funeral honors equipment; and
    (iv) The funeral honors will be provided in accordance with the
agreement in paragraph (f)(3) of this section between the personal
representative and the funeral honors provider.
    (g) Public areas. The cemetery director and cemetery staff will
allow access to and use of appropriate public areas of the national
cemetery by national cemetery visitors, as well as to families and
funeral honors providers for service preparations, contemplation,
prayer, mourning, or reflection, so long as the safety and security of
the national cemetery and cemetery operations are not adversely
affected. Appropriate public areas include, but are not limited to,
committal shelters, rest areas, chapels, and benches. The cemetery
director will ensure that signs adequately identify restricted or non-
public areas in the national cemetery.
    (h) Gifts. Nothing in this section prohibits or constrains any
member of a funeral honors provider, a Veterans Service Organization,
or the public from offering a gift or token to a family member of the
decedent or any person at a committal or memorial service, provided
that no compensation is requested, received, or expected in exchange
for such gift or token. Committal or memorial service attendees may
accept or decline any such gift or token, and may request that the
offeror refrain from making any such offers to the service attendees.
(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 2402, 2404)
[FR Doc. 2019-16915 Filed 8-6-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 8320-01-P