‘Gerald’s Law’ passes in House 409-9, moves to Senate for approval

The bill looks to correct an issue in which veterans could lose their VA burial benefits if they choose to return home for hospice care.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 5:38 PM EDT
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IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WLUC) - A veteran’s benefits bill named after a U.P. veteran has passed the U.S. House in Washington.

“Gerald’s Law” is named for Dickinson County veteran Gerald Elliott, who died in 2019. The bill looks to correct an issue in which veterans could lose their VA burial benefits if they choose to return home for hospice care. For some families, the loss of benefits could total thousands of dollars.

The Dickinson County Office of Veteran Affairs has been trying to push the bill through Congress for three years. Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI) introduced the bill into the House with Democrat support in January. The bill passed by a vote of 409-9 in May.

“I never would have ever thought it would be as big of a deal as it is. We are getting calls from all over the country. From veterans, their families, veteran advocates, who are all saying thank you for recognizing this slip in the law,” said Denise Formolo, Dickinson County veteran service officer.

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) has introduced the bill into the Senate with Republican support, where it now waits for a vote.

Gerald “Jerry” Elliott’s family tells TV6 they are proud to use his name to help other veterans. A full statement from the Elliott family can be found below:

Though Jerry’s name is on the legislation and his case is the catalyst for the need for this legislation, it will help so many families of veterans who choose to go on hospice and die at home with the love and support from their family, by providing additional burial benefits.

It has been amazing to see the support that this legislation has received from veteran groups and the VA itself.

Truly, the Elliott family’s thanks and appreciation go out to Denise Formolo, Dickinson County Office of Veteran Affairs, who said we have to change this after our claim for burial benefits was denied because Jerry did not die at the VA.

One of the things I will never forget is Jerry’s service at the grave site. Two servicemen came down from Ishpeming as an honor guard. The respect and honor they showed to Jerry, someone they never met, still brings tears to my eyes.

We need to respect, cherish, honor, and help veterans. Always.

Fortunately, our family was able to handle the cost of Jerry’s funeral expenses, but we are aware there are many veterans that would be helped by additional burial benefits. We are very proud of any part Jerry had in making this bill possible for his fellow veterans to enjoy the benefits they deserve.