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Since 2009, Schumer Has Worked With Local Veteran Leaders To Bring Much-Needed Veterans’ Cemetery To Western New York – Cemetery Site Is Currently In Planning & Design Stages, Which Are Set To Be Completed In 2016, But Subsequent Funding For Construction, Set To Start In 2017, Had Not Yet Been Secured 

In 2015 Schumer Pushed VA To Make Sure Funding Was Included In VA Budget Request This Year and in Final Senate Bill; In Addition, Environmental Review Process Will Be Completed Next Month, Meaning Construction Phase Work Can Now Begin in 2017

Schumer: WNY Veteran Cemetery Will Soon Be A Reality

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his push, $36 million in federal funding for the construction phase of the newest National Veterans’ Cemetery in Western New York has been included in the final continuing resolution (CR) package. This final appropriations bill includes the FY2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill and it set to be signed into law by the president soon. The cemetery is set to be located on 132 acres in Pembroke, NY. Schumer said the Veterans’ Cemetery in Genesee County will be the first and only of its kind in the Buffalo-Rochester area, and will save thousands of military families from having to travel upward of 100 miles to visit their loved ones at what is now the closest vet cemetery in Bath, NY.

Schumer played an integral role in making the cemetery a reality. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently completing its planning and design phases and is set to wrap up the Environmental Review process by the end of November 2016. However, federal funding for the next phase – the construction phase expected to start in 2017 – had not yet been determined until Schumer intervened. Schumer successfully included the $36 million in the appropriations bill passed by both the House and the Senate, and it is now poised to be signed into law.

“The inclusion of this critical $36 million in federal funding into the final appropriations means the newest Veterans’ Cemetery in Pembroke is finally set to become a reality. I am confident this will be signed into law by the President expeditiously – because our local veterans and community leaders in Western New York and the Rochester-Finger Lakes region have worked too long and too hard to help make this cemetery a reality to watch it stall in the construction phase,” said Schumer. “Now, we can move to the construction phase in 2017 and avoid delays, so we can guarantee the military veterans in this area will have a proper burial, at a site close to the homes, families and communities they dedicated their lives to serve and defend.”

Schumer has fought for the funding needed to make this project a reality every step of the way. In December 2015, Schumer launched his push to get the VA to include this critical funding in the VA’s upcoming Fiscal Year 2017 budget request to safeguard against needless delays between phases. Earlier this year, in February 2016, Schumer announced that the inclusion of this funding in the President’s Budget Request was a good sign for Rochester, Buffalo and all of Western New York. Schumer vowed to continue pushing for this critical federal funding to be included in the final appropriations bill. In April, Schumer announced that, following his push, the $36 million in federal funding had been included in the final Senate Military Construction Appropriations Bill for the construction phase of the cemetery.

Additionally, with the anticipated completion of the VA’s required Environmental Review by the end of November 2016, the VA anticipates it will complete the acquisition of the two adjoining parcels, a 60 acre parcel and a 77 acre parcel, by the 2nd quarter of FY17 (early calendar year 2017) to enlarge the area of the cemetery. Currently the VA parcel is 132 acres. The acquisitions of the two parcels would effectively double the size of the cemetery.

Schumer said the establishment of the nation’s newest Veterans’ Cemetery in Western New York is a long-sought and well-deserved opportunity to honor the more than 96,000 veterans and family members in this region who will have a proper military burial at a site close to their homes, families, and communities they served and defended. This Veterans’ Cemetery will be the first and only of its kind in the Buffalo-Rochester area, and will save thousands of military families from having to travel more than 100 miles in some cases to visit their loved ones at what is now the closest Veterans' Cemetery in Bath, NY. 

The planning and design work for the new cemetery is anticipated to be complete by early 2017. However, Schumer said the initial difficulties in acquiring this Western New York property took an unusually long four years and, therefore, it is critical to proactively ensure adequate funding for the subsequent construction phase of the cemetery’s development to safeguard against additional delays between phases. 

Schumer said that while the VA had funding to complete the land acquisition phase and the funding to complete for the design and planning phases, the federal agency still needed to budget and secure funding for the construction phase. With the construction phase scheduled to begin in calendar year 2017, Schumer said now is the time to prepare adequate funding in the upcoming FY17 budget cycle to guard against potential delays. Schumer said that if the funding was is not included in FY17, there would be is a greater chance there will be a gap or lag time before construction can begin. Instead, Schumer said the veterans and veteran families of Western New York – who have long waited for this cemetery – deserve to see a process that is as seamless as possible.

According to guidance provided by the VA on cemetery development timelines, it can typically take up to 24 months to complete the cemetery master planning and design process.  Following the completion of that phase, the construction phase typically requires 24-30 months to compete, with early-use burial areas made available approximately 12 months after the start of construction. Now that the $36 million to fund the construction is secure, the VA anticipates it will begin solicitation of a General Contractor to award construction.  Solicitation and contract award is anticipated to require approximately 6 months.

Schumer has long fought to make this project a reality:

  • In February 2016, Schumer announced that the just-released President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 included $36 million in funding for the construction phase of the newest National Veterans’ Cemetery in Pembroke.
  • In December 2015, Schumer launched his push to secure federal funding for the construction phase of the cemetery.
  • In May 2014, Schumer announced that the VA had selected a site for the long-awaited Western New York Veterans’ Cemetery on a 132-acre parcel at 1232 Indian Falls Road in the Town of Pembroke, Genesee County.
  • This was the culmination of years of work beginning in 2009 when Schumer, together with various veterans groups, led the charge to bring a much-needed veterans’ cemetery to Western New York arguing that a lack of a national veterans’ cemetery within a 75-mile radius of Buffalo and Rochester meant that it was long-past time for the 96,000 underserved veterans and family members living in Western New York to have a fitting burial option closer to home.
  • In 2010, the VA responded and announced it would establish a new veteran’s cemetery in Western New York.  An updated VA policy dictated the construction of a national cemetery in areas where there are at least 80,000 veterans that reside at least 75-miles from an existing cemetery.  In Western New York, there are 96,000 who live up to 100 miles away from the closest National Veterans Cemetery in Bath, NY.
  • In March 2012, after the VA failed to find suitable land to purchase following two separate solicitation attempts, Schumer wrote to then-VA Secretary Shinseki to urge that the VA put forth a clear timeline and path forward to avoid another protracted process that could come up empty.  In response, the VA dispatched personnel to Western New York to conduct site visits at several sites in WNY, issued a final solicitation for sites, and developed several candidate sites for evaluation, of which one was the 132-acre site in Pembroke that the VA subsequently acquired.
  • In April 2013, Schumer organized a meeting at Daemen College with local veterans and VA officials to update Veterans on the VA’s timeline and in order for veterans to provide input to the VA.
  • In Sept 2013, Schumer wrote to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (SHPO) to urge the agency to complete an archeological cultural-resource study required in order for the VA to complete the required approvals needed to close on the purchase of the preferred Indian Falls Road site in Pembroke.
  • In May 2014, Schumer announced that the results of the archeological cultural-resource study determined a finding of “no significant impacts,” thus allowing the VA to move forward on the purchase of the preferred site on Indiana Falls Road later that month.
  • In July 2014, Schumer called on the VA to move forward on plans to acquire the adjoining 60-acre parcel that abuts the current 132 acre site.  This would immediately make the cemetery nearly 50% larger, increase capacity, and provide better access to the cemetery for veterans’ funeral processions and visitors.

The 132- acre site on Indian Falls Road in Pembroke is located approximately 30 miles from Buffalo and 48 miles from Rochester.  The cemetery will provide a fitting burial option to approximately 96,000 currently underserved veterans and family members living in Western New York. Veterans with a qualifying discharge, their spouses and eligible dependent children may be buried in a VA national cemetery. Also eligible are military personnel who die on active duty, their spouses and eligible dependents. Burial benefits available for all eligible Veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker.