Headstones for Spouses: The Problem You Didn't Know About

File this one under: things you didn't know need fixing but actually do.

One lawmaker has introduced a bill that would provide deceased military spouses with a headstone when they die, not many years later.

You're thinking "wait, what?" Me, too.

Current law provides any current or former military spouse who dies after 1998 with a headstone paid for by the Veterans Affairs Administration (VA) if one is requested. Same thing for a veteran. (You can read all the rules here.)

But a provision in the law makes it so that the spouse only gets a headstone if she buried in a state, federal or on-base cemetery. Buried anywhere else? No marker for you. Veterans, on the other hand, qualify for a marker no matter where they are buried (as they should).

One lawmaker wants to fix a headstone problem you didn't even know you have.

The only way a spouse can get a marker in a non-veteran's state, federal or on-base cemetery? Wait until his or her veteran dies. An inscription for her can then be added to the back of the headstone.

Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) has introduced legislation that would change that. The "Dignity for America's Military Families Act" (that's quite a name) would authorize a headstone if requested for any spouse of a veteran regardless of where she is buried.

"When our troops are deployed into service, both they and their loved ones make a sacrifice,” Norcross said in a statement. “Dealing with the death of a loved one can be stressful enough, having to pay thousands of dollars on a temporary marker or risk the grave site going unmarked due to a technicality in the law is not how we should treat those who fought for our freedom. The Dignity for America’s Military Families Act corrects this problem and gives veterans and their families the burial rights that they have rightfully earned.”

How the stone would appear will be based on the individual's preference, said Fran Tagmire, a spokesman for Norcross.

"The appearance really depends on what the couple chooses and how many people are buried in one plot. If it is just the spouse, they generally have the option to have their name on the front or the back," he said in an email. "If there are multiple spouses and/or dependents buried in the same plot, because of practical space reasons, the names are often put on the back. But it is up to them."

Want to tell your representative what you think about this proposal? Go here.

Photo courtesy National Park Service.

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