12.10.15

SCHUMER LAUNCHES PUSH TO SECURE CRITICAL FUNDING FOR CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW WNY VETERANS’ CEMETERY – WHILE VA HAS FUNDING NEEDED TO COMPLETE DESIGN & PLANNING PHASES OF THE PROJECT THROUGH 2016, SUBSEQUENT CONSTRUCTION PHASE – EXPECTED TO START IN 2017 – HAS NOT YET BEEN FUNDED; SENATOR SAYS VA MUST PRIORITIZE FIRST-EVER VET CEMETERY IN BUFFALO-ROCHESTER AREA

Since 2012, Schumer Has Worked With Local Veteran Leaders To Bring Much-Needed Veterans’ Cemetery To Western New York; Closest Vet Cemetery is Currently 100+ Miles Away From Buffalo & 85 Miles Away From Rochester

Cemetery Site Is Currently In Planning & Design Stages, Which Are Set To Be Completed In 2016, But Schumer Says Subsequent Funding For Construction Set To Start In 2017 Has Not Yet Been Determined

Schumer To VA: Prioritize WNY Vet Cemetery Construction Funding Right Now – Buffalo & Rochester Families Have Waited Long Enough

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his push to secure federal funding for the construction phase of the newest National Veterans’ Cemetery in Western New York, which 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, located in Steuben County. Schumer played an integral role in making the cemetery a reality, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is now in its planning and design phases. Schumer said while the planning and design are expected to wrap up by the end of 2016 and have funding necessary to be completed, federal funding for the next phase – the construction phase expected to start in 2017 – has not yet been determined.  Therefore, Schumer is urging the VA to include this critical funding in the VA’s upcoming Fiscal Year 2017 budget request to safeguard against needless delays between phases.

“The veterans and local leaders in Western New York and the Rochester-Finger Lakes region have worked too long and too hard to help make this Veterans’ Cemetery in Pembroke a reality to watch it stall in the construction phase. While the funding is there to complete the project’s planning and design phase through 2016, we need to make sure the expected start of construction beginning in 2017 is not delayed due to a lack funding. That is why I’m calling on the VA to prioritize it now as it prepares its 2017 budget request,” said Schumer. “We need the VA to ensure the funding will be there to 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 explained that 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 portion of the design process for the new cemetery is anticipated to be complete by the latter part of January, and the remainder of the cemetery design process phase is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. 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 now has the funding for the design and planning scopes of work planned through calendar year 2016, the federal agency still needs to budget 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 is not included in FY17, there 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. 

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs appears below:

Dear Secretary McDonald,

I am writing to express my support for the ongoing development and subsequent construction of the new VA cemetery in Western New York, in the town of Pembroke, and ask for your assistance in keeping its development timeline on track.  Specifically I ask that funding be included in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) President's Budget request for the cemetery's construction phase.

The establishment of the nation's newest National 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 by ensuring that they will have a proper military burial at a site close to their homes, families, and communities they served and defended.  I was very pleased to support the establishment of this cemetery as it fills a major gap in coverage for our veterans.  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 upward of 100 miles to visit their loved ones at what is now the closest Veterans' Cemetery in Bath, NY. 

However, as you know due to difficulties in acquiring suitable property in Western New York it took an unusually long four years before the current 132 acre site in Pembroke was acquired.  Therefore, it is critically important to budget adequate funding for each phase of the cemetery's development, from planning and design through construction phases, to safeguard against needless delays between phases. 

I understand that the Cemetery Master Planning portion of the design process for the new cemetery is scheduled to be complete by the latter part of January, and that the remainder of the cemetery design process phase is on schedule and will occur throughout the rest of calendar year 2016.  While the VA has current funding to complete the land acquisition and design/planning scope of work planned through calendar year 2016, the VA still needs to budget funding for the subsequent construction phase.  With the construction phase now on the horizon for calendar year 2017, now is the time to prepare adequate funding in the upcoming FY17 budget for construction. 

My concern is that if funding is not included in FY17, there is a greater chance for significant delay between the design and construction phases, a risk that I ask you to take measures to safeguard against now.   

I thank you for your consideration of this matter.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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