State to continue providing funds for honor guard at veterans' funerals

Getting ready
An honor guard gets ready at a veteran's funeral service at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Fairmont, Minn. in a May 2010 file photo.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito on Wednesday announced the state will continue to fund groups that provide funeral honors for veterans.

The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton had cut the program's funding for the next two years because of the state's budget crisis. But Shellito said the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to provide funds to veteran service organizations for funerals.

"All veterans will receive proper military funeral honors. That is a stated goal, and I'll be held to that one," Shellito told MPR's All Things Considered. "This is one thing we are not letting fall through the cracks."

Since 2008, the state has given service organizations nearly $265,000 to provide military funeral honors. The money reimbursed honor guards that attended funerals for the state's veterans, giving the groups up to $50 for each funeral for things like mileage and uniforms.

Shellito said the department was fortunate to be one of only two state agencies to see their funding increase for the next two years while other agencies have experienced substantial cuts. He said some Veterans Affairs programs end up costing less than they are budgeted for, and donations from Minnesotans have also helped.

"We have enough funds, we project, to handle this next year," Shellito said of the funeral honors.

Next year, he said he will work with Dayton and the Legislature to come up with a permanent source of funding for veterans' funeral honors.

About 72 percent of Minnesota veterans receive no regular federal benefits, but Shellito said many of them choose to be honored at their funerals.

"That's a very, very small tribute to the sacrifices they've made. So that's what we're committed to," he said. "I'm going to fight for it severely."

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