The bill originally was scheduled for a House floor vote in September but was pulled back when main sponsor Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) was delayed in returning in time to Washington due to severe weather in his home district. At the same time, the American Legion objected to the bill as an attempt to equate civilian and military service and said the measure was unclear on issues including who would qualify, how the flag would be presented, and to whom.
Since then, the language has been narrowed to specify that a flag would go only to the next of kin of a federal employee, and not of a volunteer, killed while performing official duties as a result of natural disaster, a criminal act, terrorism or another incident as declared by the president. The flag simply will be given to the next of kin or other designee and there will be “no military-style burial honors,” said Renee Gamela, Hanna’s communications director.
“We believe the finalized language addresses our concerns with next of kin, volunteers and presentation of the flag,” the American Legion wrote in a letter to Hanna. “Those amendments will ensure the sacrifices made by federal employees are not overlooked while guaranteeing the earned benefits of veterans is not diminished.”
More than two dozen unions and other organizations representing federal employees sent House leaders a separate letter saying the bill has strong bi-partisan support and urging a prompt vote. “This legislation is not meant to authorize military funeral honors to federal civilian employees. It is merely giving the families a flag — a small honor for those employees who sacrificed their lives in service to this country,” it said.
The bill could reach the House floor as soon as Tuesday.