Honor Guard Funding for Our Veterans

In a recent letter to the editor, the writer stated that Republicans were discontinuing state payments to the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs (MDVA) to provide funding for Honor Guard services at funerals of deceased military veterans. I would like everyone to know that this statement is incorrect.

To give some background, the Honor Guard Program was established to reimburse veterans organizations throughout the state to assist in payment for military funeral honors. According to Minnesota Statute, the commissioner of Veterans Affairs “shall pay, within available funds” up to $50 to a requesting local veterans unit for each time that local unit provides an Honor Guard detail at the funeral of a deceased veteran.

This became a story in the media due to initial reports that the Governor’s Administration had decided to discontinue the program of reimbursements for military funeral honors. I was alarmed to hear this, knowing that funding for Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs, as passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor, was actually increased.

Since this news broke, Senator Mike Parry (R – Waseca), Chairman of the State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee has been working with the MVDA to ensure funding remains in place for this important program. Senator Parry also plans to introduce a bill early in the 2012 legislative session that will provide an additional funding tool for the MVDA to use in reimbursing Honor Guard services, of which I plan on supporting.

As a result of these actions, MVDA Commissioner Larry Shellito recently stated that the department will indeed continue to reimburse local military organizations for Honor Guard funerals. Commissioner Shellito also went on to publicly thank the State Legislature, as well as Chairman Parry and House Veterans Committee Chairman Morrie Lanning (R – Moorhead) for their support of their department and its mission. Additionally, Governor Dayton and Commissioner Shellito issued a statement proclaiming their support of Senator Parry’s proposed funding plan.

As a veteran, I fully understand the importance of Honor Guard funerals and what they mean to the families, friends and fellow veterans who served side by side with our fallen soldiers.

If I can answer any questions about this or anything else, please feel free to contact me at sen.joe.gimse@senate.mn or at (651) 296-2826. As always, I am honored to represent and serve the citizens of Senate District 13 in St. Paul.