FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 29, 2012
SCHUMER MEETS WITH VA OFFICIALS TO BREAK LOG-JAM THAT IS HOLDING BACK PROGRESS ON WNY VETERANS’ CEMETERY
During Meeting, VA Officials Tell Schumer They Have Visited Six Sites During The Last Several Weeks And Two Are Good Possibility For 100-Acre Veterans’ Cemetery
Schumer Urged VA To Move Full Speed Ahead On Possible Sites But To Keep Looking For Others In Case These Fall Through – VA Said They Will Meet With Vets Groups In WNY To Seek Input and Update Groups On Progress
Schumer: I’m Optimistic VA Will Make Progress In The Months Ahead
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer hosted a meeting in his Washington, DC office with top Veterans Affairs (VA) officials to craft an immediate plan to finalize the establishment of a veterans cemetery in Western New York, a project that the senator has long championed. Schumer asked for the meeting to iron out a concrete timeline following reports earlier this month that the VA had still not found a viable cemetery in Western New York. He met with George Szwarcman, the Chief of the VA Real Properties Service, Jacki Post, Realty Specialist of the VA Real Properties Service and Steve L. Muro, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs - National Cemetery Administration.
“This was a positive and productive meeting, and I’m optimistic that we’re making progress on the cemetery that veterans in Western New York deserve,” said Schumer. “The recent site visits give us hope that a site selection may not be far down the road, and I told the VA that I will do everything I can to get the acquisition done, and the future site ready for the cemetery. Western New York veterans have a proud tradition of military service, and they deserve a dignified final resting place. I’m going to keep pushing the VA to move full speed ahead and offer my support to knock down any barriers that may stand in their way.”
During the meeting, the VA officials told Schumer that they are taking several important steps to move the cemetery project forward. First, they have reduced the size requirement for the land to 100 acres, with the hopes that more parcels of land will qualify for the project. When Schumer asked, VA officials assured him that 100 acres would be sufficiently large for the cemetery, and that the plots of land they were searching for would be near adjacent lots that could be purchased down the road when more space was needed. The VA has sent officials to Western New York to meet with veterans and knock on doors of landowners who have space that could be suitable for the cemetery. During the process, the officials pursued six sites and are optimistic that two of the sites have suitable land and could be purchased at an appraised market price.
Schumer noted during the meeting that past VA procedures had bogged down the search and selection process. Previously, when potential sites had been identified, the VA would stop searching for other possible sites in order to focus solely on conducting due diligence on the possible sites. In the event that an agreement could not be reached, the VA would not have any other sites identified to fall back on, and would have to start the search process over as they have now done two times. In light of the fact that this has added months of delays, Schumer pressed the VA to continue searching for alternate sites while doing due diligence on promising parcels of land. The VA agreed with Schumer’s request and said that this decision could speed up the timeline from 12-15 months during this latest round of site selection, to as little as 8 months.
Schumer has long argued that it is critical for the veterans cemetery location to be decided on and for acquisition to begin immediately. Half of New York Veterans are 65 years of age or older, and now is the time to start planning for the future of those veterans, and ensuring that they are treated with the honor they deserve. Schumer has heard from local veterans groups that veterans in Western New York desperately want to be buried in a national shrine, but don’t want to force their families to travel long distances to visit, potentially at great hardship to do so. Today, there are more than 22 million veterans who are eligible for the honor of burial in a National Cemetery. Veterans with discharges other than dishonorable, their spouses and dependent children may be eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery. Those who die on active duty may also be buried in a national cemetery.