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Newsmax is good at clickbait headlines and videos but falls far short in real reporting on the apparent Air Force refusal to support military burial honors for Ashli Babbitt, an honorably discharged Air Force veteran. The Newsmax story just features the angry, grieving mother and one attempt to call one military office before publication. There is not even a minimal effort to check the basic policy and law behind death benefits and military honors for veterans. Newsmax baits, I dig for your consideration, and leave you with a provocative possibility.
There are two pieces to the federal government honoring a veteran in death. The first piece is burial benefits, including burial in certain cemeteries, grave markers, and a folded flag. These are the statutory responsibility of the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (the VA). The second piece is a military honor detail at the internment, what used to be called a burial detail. This is a statutory duty of the Department of Defense. Each service has a duty to its own, fulfilled by active duty, and drilling Guard and Reserve service members. The statutory minimum is two service members in the military honors detail.
The general rule is that veterans who were separated from service under honorable or general conditions are entitled to certain VA burial benefits and military honors. Not surprisingly, then, the relevant law shows up in both Title 10 (Armed Forces) and Title 38 (Veterans’ Benefits). Here are the relevant bits, with emphasis added: