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Coats pushes for bill to allow veteran disinterment

Coats

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., plans to testify today at a Capitol Hill hearing on legislation affecting the burial of military veterans.

Coats’ office said he will appear at a 2 p.m. hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to discuss a bill he introduced that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Army to disinter from national cemeteries the remains of veterans who committed capital crimes.

His bill was prompted by the burial in Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Mich., of an Army veteran who killed himself in 2012 after slaying Alicia Dawn Koehl during a shooting spree at an Indianapolis apartment complex where Koehl worked.

Koehl, 45, was married to Paul Koehl, a Fort Wayne native whose parents live in the city.

Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., are co-sponsors of the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act. Burr is the highest-ranking Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

A House version of Coats’ bill has been introduced by Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th.

Federal law prohibits the burial in national cemeteries of anyone who has been charged with a capital crime but died before trial. But VA officials have told Coats the agency lacks the authority to exhume ineligible veterans who were buried by mistake.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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