Bill would clarify authorization for disposition of military members’ remains

The Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony Feb. 8 on a bill seeking to clarify authorization of disposition of a military member’s remains.

LB420, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, would specify that the federal DD Form 93 be recognized as the legal instrument authorizing an individual to direct disposition of military remains. The person authorized by the form to direct disposition of remains is known as a PADD.

McGill explained that current Nebraska laws seems to require that a deceased person have completed a notarized affidavit to designate a PADD, but the DD Form 93 form is not notarized. The document is, however, witnessed by an authorized military official and is updated every year on the service member’s birthday and prior to each deployment, she said.

Military families are devastated by the loss of a service member, McGill said, and that trauma is made worse by legal battles that may ensue over disposition of remains.

“They should not have to worry about how the loved one’s remains will be handled,” she said. “This is happening here in Nebraska, however, and that is why I introduced this bill.”

Retired Nebraska National Guard Adjutant General Roger Lempke testified in support of the bill. Family members may not always agree on disposition of remains, he said, but following the DD Form 93 would ensure that a service member’s most recent wishes are honored.

“It is the most current document that a service member has to identify those key things that are immediately important should they die,” Lempke said. “Without that, matters can become contentious.”

Joyce George-Peck, mother of Staff Sgt. Patrick Hamburger, also testified in support of the bill. She said that in his DD Form 93, which Hamburger signed prior to his deployment to Afghanistan, she was the person designated to direct disposition of her son’s remains.

“Patrick had been in theater for less than a week when he gave his life for his country,” George-Peck said, adding that Hamburger had outlined specific instructions in the form regarding his headstone and other wishes.

However, the mother of Hamburger’s son produced a document claiming the right to dispose of his remains, George-Peck said, which was upheld by the court because it was notarized and the DD Form 93 was not. As a result, she said, no mention of Hamburger’s rank or service appear on his memorial.

“I’m unable to fully keep a mother’s last promise to her son,” she said.

No opposition testimony was given and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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