Costa to Intro Bill to Honor Hmong Veterans

Washington, DC—Rep. Jim Costa joined with Hmong veterans to announce that he will introduce legislation this week that would recognize the service and sacrifices of Hmong veterans in the Valley and nationwide. Costa is joined by Vietnam veteran Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) in introducing the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act, which would extend burial benefits in national cemeteries to Hmong and Lao Americans who served beside U.S. Armed Forces during theVietnam War.

“Serving side-by-side with U.S. troops during Vietnam, Hmong veterans have earned the right to rest in peace beside their brothers in arms,” said Costa. “Long before they were citizens of this country, they put themselves in harm’s way to protect and defend American ideals and interests.  Granting them burial benefits recognizes their patriotic service and demonstrates our nation’s deep gratitude for their heroic actions.”

Hmong men from Laos were trained and led by officers from the CIA’s Special Activities Division during the Vietnam War. Tens of thousands of these men performed direct missions against Communist forces and North Vietnamese supporters. Following the war, thousands of Hmong Veterans resettled across the United States and in the Valley. In 2000, President Clinton signed the Hmong Veterans Naturalization Act, which allowed Hmong veterans and their families to become U.S. citizens.

Rep. Paul Cook added, “I’m pleased to co-sponsor the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act.  As a Vietnam Veteran, I know that these Hmong veterans were our strongest ally while the U.S. fought a deadly fight against communism. These brave men and women had to leave their country following the war because of their standing with America and have since become U.S. citizens. It is only right that we give these U.S. citizens who fought alongside us so bravely the right to rest as heroes in our national cemeteries.”

Currently burial benefits are available to veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Services, their spouses and dependents, Reserve Officers, Public Health Service Officers, Merchant Mariners from World War II, and the Philippine Armed Forces. This legislation would add veterans who were naturalized under the Hmong Veterans Naturalization Act to the list of individuals eligible for interment at a national cemetery. It is estimated that there are still 6,000 Hmong veteransliving in the United States today.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) said, “Those who bravely serve our country deserve the honor of being laid to rest in national cemeteries. As Ranking Member of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, I applaud my colleague Mr. Costa for introducing this legislation to extend proper interment services to Hmong and Lao veterans who served alongside U.S. Forces during the Vietnam War. I am proud to be an original cosponsor, and hope we can quickly move it through our Subcommittee.”

Costa has long championed this cause and momentum is growing as a bipartisan coalition of high-ranking members on the Veterans Affairs Committee has formed in support of recognizing the service of Hmong Veterans. For the first time ever, companion legislation has also been introduced in the United States Senate by Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).