SCHUMER: VA CLEARS FINAL HURDLE TO PURCHASE LAND AT ONE OF THREE SITES FOR LONG-AWAITED WESTERN NEW YORK VETERANS CEMETERY VA TO ISSUE ENVIRONMENTAL APPROVAL, WHICH MEANS LAST MAJOR HURDLE CLEARED VA CAN NOW PROCEED TO PURCHASE TOP-PREFERRED SITE
brSchumer Announces VA will Issue an Environmental Assessment Clearing All Three Potential Sites for the WNY Veterans Cemetery Many Consider Indian Falls Rd Site as the Favorite, But Final Site Selection Expected in Near FuturebrbrbrSchumer Has Led the Charge to Bring Much-Needed Vets Cemetery to Western New York, Pushed for Three Sites to Be Considered Now Schumer Urges VA to Expedite Final Decision on Site LocationbrbrbrSchumer: With Memorial Day Around the Corner, No Better Way to Honor Our
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has completed an Environmental Assessment clearing the three potential sites for the national veterans' cemetery in Western New York. The Environmental Assessment, which is expected to report "no significant findings," will be released on Sunday, and is the final step before the VA can close on its preferred site. The Environmental Assessment (EA) was conducted in conjunction with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The VA could not issue the final NEPA Environmental Assessment until a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was completed with the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and the New York SHPO to provide for the curation of artifacts collected at one of the sites during a due diligence archeological study. That MOA has now been completed.
Last fall, Schumer had urged SHPO to expedite its consideration and approvals of the final NEPA EA. Schumer noted that with a lack of a national veterans' cemetery within a 75mile radius, and hundreds of thousands of veterans living in the region, the time is longpast to establish a national veterans' cemetery in Western New York. He explained that the VA had already entered into a purchase contract with the owner of the preferred site,clearing the way for the VA to proceed to close on a final site within 30 to 60 days.
"It's absolutely great news that the environmental assessment will clear the three sites for the Western New York veterans' cemetery because it is the last big procedure before the VA can settle on its final site. Now that we know there are no hurdles, I expect the VA to make its final site decision very soon. And with Memorial Day around the corner, there is no better way to honor our Western New York veterans than by finally establishing a national veteran's cemetery in Western New York," said Schumer. "It is time that the many thousands of deserving veterans and their families from Buffalo to Rochester and beyond are afforded a site for proper military burial near their home in Western New York and I'm urging the VA to move quickly to establish a final location."
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.
Senator Schumer has joined with Western New York vets for years in calling for the VA to locate the first federal veterans' cemetery in the region. Around 20092010, the VA updated its burial policy, which changed the threshold of Veterans required to construct a new national cemetery to 80,000 veterans within 75 miles of a proposed site. With this new policy, the region was more than qualified, there are nearly 100,000 veterans in Orleans, Niagara, Erie, and Chautauqua counties alone, approximately 200,000 veterans in the Rochester region, and additional veterans who live more than 75 miles from the nearest available National Cemetery in Bath, NY. Schumer has fought to keep the VA moving forward in finding a site for this cemetery ever since, and has pushed the process through a variety of roadblocks.
In particular, throughout the process, Schumer has urged the VA to be more transparent about its selection timeline and site preferences. As a result of the Senator's efforts, the VA has released information about the process to the local community, and after a personal meeting in Schumer's DC office in 2012, committed to an expedited timeline. In addition, Schumer pushed the VA to advance multiple sites through the selection process so that if any issues came up with one site the VA would not have to start the process over, further delaying the process. Schumer vowed to continue his efforts to speed up the selection process and now that the environmental assessment is complete and no obstacles identified, he is urged the VA to swiftly close on a property.