Bill would extend burial benefits to Hmong vets

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Sixth District, recently joined other members of Congress to introduce bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3192, honoring the service of Hmong veterans in Wisconsin and nationwide. The legislation would extend burial benefits in national cemeteries to Hmong veterans who fought alongside and supported U.S. forces during the Vietnam War era.

"Hmong troops were America's determined and reliable allies in Laos," Petri said. "These veterans fought and bled in our common struggle in Southeast Asia. Extending burial benefits to those who came to the United States following the Communist takeover of Laos recognizes their sacrifice and honors their service."

Hmong men from Laos were trained and led by officers from the CIA's Special Activities Division during the Vietnam War. Tens of thousands of these men performed direct missions against North Vietnamese troops and local Communist guerillas. Following the war, thousands of Hmong veterans resettled across the United States, including in Wisconsin. In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed legislation granting them refugee status.

Currently, burial benefits are available to veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Services, their spouses and dependents, reserve officers, Public Health Service officers, Merchant Mariners from World War II and members of the Philippine Armed Forces. This legislation would add Hmong veterans to the list of people eligible for interment in national cemeteries after they undergo a verification and documentation process by the Department of Veterans Affairs to certify their service. Hmong veterans must be American citizens or legal permanent residents to be eligible.

Approximately 6,900 Hmong veterans would currently be eligible for burial benefits.


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