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Statement of

Julie A. Gifford

Mid-Atlantic Region State Liaison Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy DoD-State Liaison Office

SB408-Public Health-Disposition of Remains-Armed Forces

February 18, 2010

Maryland Senate Finance Committee

Good morning Chairman Middleton and committee members. My name is Julie Gifford and I am with the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss recognizing the Service members' request for disposition of remains as stated on the DD Form 93.

We strongly support the policy as reflected in Senate Bill 408 as an effort to simply recognize in Maryland statue the approach that Service members are directed to follow in designating a person to direct the disposition of their remains (what we call a PADD, a "Person Authorized to Direct Disposition." Forty-eight percent of Service members are less than 25 years old. Partly because of their youth, they are very unlikely to have prepared and filed any sort of form designating an agent in the event of their untimely death. But, the tragic fact is that some of them will die while in the service of their country.

Accordingly, the Department of Defense, in response to Congressional mandate, requires each service member to designate a PADD on the DD Form 93. The DD Form 93 is an essential part of their military record, also designating their beneficiaries for Service members’ Death Gratuity. Service members are required to update this form annually and before any deployment. Our request will ensure that the DD Form 93 is consulted and viewed as the legally sufficient document for designating a PADD by an active Service member in Maryland.

Let me illustrate our issue by sharing a case with you that shows what can happen when there is a lack of clarity in designating a PADD:

A

deceased Soldier who was married but estranged from his wife, elected his mother

as

the PADD on DD Form 93. The mother wanted to cremate the Soldier; however,

the funeral director refused to cremate the remains without the wife's consent. The funeral director was following the rules of the state. The spouse was reluctant to sign

the consent for cremation and only after a military attorney intervened, did the wife eventually consent.

In this case, the wishes of the Service member were eventually honored; however, this situation, and the unnecessary delay it caused, could have been avoided if the state statute in question had referred to and recognized the DD Form 93. Disputes on who has the right to direct disposition of remains have ended up in court. When this happens, the remains of the brave Service member literally sit on a shelf. These delays only worsen what is already the most difficult time for a family.

The proposed amendment to state law on disposition removes confusion for the family and allows funeral directors to refer to a single document to approach the Service member’s choice for directing the disposition of his or her remains.