OKLAHOMA CITY – There are currently estimated to be over 300 homeless veterans in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association says that statewide they bury approximately 25 indigent veterans each year and absorb the costs of the funerals.
On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved Senate 1134, by Sen. Frank Simpson, which would provide a funding mechanism for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs’ (ODVA) Indigent Veteran Burial Program.
“Our veterans served our nation honorably, sacrificing of themselves to help others. The least we can do as a society is to ensure that they are honorably laid to rest with dignity,” said Simpson, R-Springer. “This bill will allow citizens and businesses to donate a portion or all of their income refund to this burial program to help our indigent veterans.”
Under SB 1134, each state individual income tax return form and each state corporate tax return form for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2016, would contain a provision to allow a donation from a tax refund for the benefit of ODVA’s Indigent Veteran Burial Program. A revolving fund would be created in the State Treasury for the program.
The measure would also allow donations to be received from private individuals, veteran’s organizations, charitable groups and any other entities wishing to make donations directly to the fund.
The ODVA would be able to use the funds to reimburse cemeteries or funeral homes for costs associated with burying indigent veterans.
SB 1134 is a companion bill to SB 398, which was introduced last session and is awaiting further consideration in the General Conference Committee on Appropriations. SB 398 seeks to create the Indigent Veteran Burial Program.
SB 1134 will next be heard in the House.