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Our successful negotiation of a water rights compact for the Seminole Tribe resulted in the recognition of Winters Doctrine rights for an Eastern Tribe located in a riparian state.

General Memorandum 12-021

General Memorandum 12-021
Veterans Administration Issues Rule on Tribal Veterans Cemetery Grants

The Veterans Administration (VA) issued a final rule in the January 30, 2012, FEDERAL REGISTER in compliance with the statutory requirement that tribal organizations are eligible for its veterans cemetery grants program. The notice is attached. Under this program grants are made for the establishment, expansion, and improvement of veterans cemeteries.

The Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 (PL 109-461) required the VA to administer the cemetery grants program for tribal organizations in the same manner that grants are made to states.

Tribal veterans cemeteries receiving funds under this program must be on trust land and must be operated by a tribe or tribal organization. The term "trust lands" includes lands held in trust by the United States, Native Hawaiian homelands, lands owned by Alaska Regional and Village corporations, and lands "on any island in the Pacific Ocean if such land is, by cultural tradition, communally-owned land, as determined by the Secretary [of Veterans Affairs]." The attached rule also contains definitions of tribe and tribal organization. All veterans cemeteries established under this program must meet specific planning and construction standards. The cemeteries are to be operated "solely for the internment of veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, minor children, unmarried adult children who were physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support, and eligible parents of certain deceased service members."

The VA has changed the name of its agency administering the program from the "State Cemetery Grants Service" to the "Veterans Cemetery Grants Service."
The VA will reimburse up to 100 percent of the costs associated with the establishment, expansion, and improvement of a veterans cemetery, as well as the cost of initial operating equipment. The FY 2012 appropriation for the veterans cemetery grant program is $46 million, the same as in FY 2011.

Tribes/tribal organizations are new to accessing this program; late in 2011 the Rosebud Sioux, Yurok, and Pascua-Yaqui tribes received veterans cemetery grants. The current priority list of applicants may be found on the Veterans Cemetery Grant Service website (www.cem.va.gov/grants). The Director of the VA Office of Tribal Governmental Relations is Stephanie Elaine Birdwell (stephanieelaine.birdwell@va.gov.)

Please let us know if we may provide additional information or assistance regarding the veterans cemetery grants program.

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Inquires may be directed to:
Karen Funk (kfunk@hobbsstraus.com)

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