Pennsylvania House Unanimously Passes Bill to Aid Families of Veterans

Pennsylvania Capitol Dome

HARRISBURG, PA — State Representative Chris Pielli, D-Chester, announced that his legislation to support spouses and dependents of veterans has cleared the state House of Representatives with unanimous backing. This legislative victory marks a crucial step in addressing procedural changes that had inadvertently disadvantaged veteran families.

The Legislative Context

In September 2023, the Pennsylvania Department of Health revised its policy regarding veteran’s preference death certificates. Under the new interpretation, only if a veteran predeceases their spouse could the spouse receive a veteran’s preference death certificate. This change caused significant concern among families of veterans, who relied on these certificates for various benefits and honors.

House Bill 1963, introduced by Rep. Pielli, aims to amend the Vital Statistics Law of 1953 to clearly entitle spouses and dependents of veterans to receive these certificates, irrespective of whether the veteran or the spouse dies first.

Key Provisions of the Bill

House Bill 1963 amends sections of the act of June 29, 1953 (P.L.304, No.66), commonly known as the Vital Statistics Law of 1953. Specifically, it:

  • Updates definitions within the law.
  • Adjusts the provisions related to fees for copies of vital records.
  • Explicitly states that spouses and dependents of veterans are eligible for veteran’s preference death certificates regardless of the order of death.

The bill received overwhelming support, passing with a 202-0 vote on June 24, 2024. It now moves to the state Senate for further consideration.

Importance of the Legislation

Rep. Pielli, a veteran himself, emphasized the need to honor and support both veterans and their families. “We should do everything in our power to help our veterans,” Pielli said. “That same attitude should be extended to the families of veterans.”

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This legislation addresses the concerns raised by the Department of Health’s recent policy change. By ensuring that spouses and dependents can still receive veteran’s preference death certificates, the bill provides continuity and recognition for families who support their loved ones in service to the nation.

Streamlining Benefits with House Bill 1963

Veterans’ preference death certificates serve more than just a ceremonial role. They are crucial for accessing various benefits, including burial honors, financial support, and other services dedicated to veterans and their families. Ensuring that these certificates are accessible helps maintain the dignity and respect owed to those who have served.

For many families, the bureaucratic hurdles added stress during already challenging times. House Bill 1963 simplifies the process and offers peace of mind to surviving spouses and dependents, reassuring them that their sacrifices are acknowledged and valued.

Next Steps

With the House’s unanimous support, House Bill 1963 now heads to the state Senate. If passed, the bill will codify the entitlement of spouses and dependents to veteran’s preference death certificates, ensuring no future misinterpretations can strip away this right.

Representatives Dan L. Miller and Joe Webster co-authored the bill with Pielli, reflecting a strong bipartisan effort to address this issue. Their collective work highlights a shared commitment to supporting veteran families.

The passage of House Bill 1963 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives marks a significant step toward rectifying an oversight that affected many veteran families. By clarifying their entitlement to veteran’s preference death certificates, the state acknowledges the enduring contributions and sacrifices made by military families. As the bill moves to the Senate, it carries the hope and expectation of becoming law, providing long-needed clarity and support to those who stand behind every veteran.

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