A limit on taxpayer-paid military funeral honors to burials within 100 miles of Philadelphia and central Pennsylvania has been lifted by the state National Guard after it received a commitment for more federal money, a state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs spokeswoman said Friday.
Two state senators, Joe Scarnati, of Jefferson County, and Lisa Baker, of Luzerne County, had protested the policy in a letter this week asking Adjutant General Wesley Craig to reverse it. The senators said that they were shocked that an arbitrary limit had been set without notice or consultation and that it affected servicemen and servicewomen living in several urban centers, numerous small communities and extensive rural areas.
But Craig's spokeswoman, Joan Nissley, said additional federal money received within the past week or two from the National Guard Bureau resolved the need for a limit.
An Oct. 11 memo from a department official to a funeral home in Warren, a small northwest Pennsylvania city, cited "various fiscal restraints" for the 100-mile limit from agency offices in Philadelphia and Annville, but it did not elaborate.
Nissley said her agency created the limit after initially being told to expect a 30 percent reduction in federal aid starting last month, when the federal fiscal year began. Federal money, not state money, pays for the service for honorably discharged veterans at no cost to families or funeral homes, she said.
Because Pennsylvania has no active army installation with personnel to provide the service, it falls to the Pennsylvania National Guard, Nissley said.
Nissley said she was unaware of anyone being denied military funeral honors in Pennsylvania in recent weeks, but she also said that funeral directors can contact Fort Meade in Maryland to request the service from personnel stationed there. Funeral directors will be getting a letter to clarify the policy, she said.
She said Scarnati and Baker were not apprised of the limit when it became necessary because the money was from the federal government and not part of the $27.7 billion state budget that Gov. Tom Corbett signed June 30.
State military personnel provided honors at about 3,600 burials in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, Nissley said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.