Brooks Introduces Legislation Giving VA and Army Authority to Protect Integrity of National Cemeteries
Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) introduced the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act today. The legislation gives the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of the Army authority to disinter veterans buried in national cemeteries that have committed a capital crime. The bill is the companion to legislation introduced by Senators Dan Coats (R-IN) and Joe Donnelly (R-IN) in the U.S. Senate.
Additionally, the bill specifically ensures the VA can disinter the remains of military veteran Michael L. Anderson. On May 30 of last year, Anderson shot and killed Indianapolis resident Alicia Dawn Koehl before taking his own life. The crime occurred within the boundaries of Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. Anderson was buried at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Michigan with full military honors at taxpayer expense.
“Alicia Koehls’ family deserves the closure that our ineffective federal bureaucracy has denied for too long,” Congresswoman Brooks said. “This is a much needed legislative fix that will protect the integrity of our national cemeteries. I am proud to be working with Senators Coats and Donnelly to ensure no other families will have to endure a similar nightmare after losing a loved one.”
“The Koehl family has suffered enough and deserves to have this unacceptable mistake corrected,” Senator Coats said. “I am pleased that Congresswoman Brooks is leading the effort in the House to pass the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act. I join her in urging Congress to pass this legislation to ensure that our fallen veterans rest in peace next to loved ones and fellow soldiers, not criminals.”
“We must preserve the honor of being buried in a veterans’ cemetery,” Senator Donnelly explained. “I am thankful to Rep. Brooks for introducing the House version of the bill Sen. Coats and I introduced to help provide relief to the Koehl family and a solution to these tragic circumstances. As the VA informed us that a legislative solution is needed, we will have to work together to address this injustice.”
After learning of Anderson’s burial, the Koehl family contacted the VA requesting that he be disinterred. Federal law prohibits individuals who “have committed a Federal or State capital crime but were unavailable for trial due to death” from being buried in national cemeteries.
For more than a year, members of Indiana’s Congressional delegation asked for status updates on the issue and were told the VA was still considering the matter. On July 30, the VA notified the delegation that it would deny the Koehl’s request because it does not have the authority to disinter the remains of an individual buried in one of its cemeteries.
The Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act explicitly gives the VA the authority it needs to disinter Michael L. Anderson and other individuals who are guilty of similar crimes.