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AGO 1953 No. 132 - September 11, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

EXPENDITURE BY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS FROM SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' CIVIL RELIEF FUND FOR PERPETUAL CARE OF VETERANS' GRAVES

Money in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Fund may not be expended for perpetual care of veterans' graves, irrespective of who provides the care and where title is vested.

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                                                              September 11, 1953

Honorable Keith O. Yates
Prosecuting Attorney
Columbia County
Court House
Dayton, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 132

Dear Sir:

            We have your inquiry of August 18, 1953, requesting an opinion with respect to the disbursal of monies by the county commissioners from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Fund.

            In this connection you propounded to us three questions:

            1.         May the County Commissioners, with veteran relief funds, purchase from the city of Dayton perpetual care for burial spaces owned by the American Legion and reserved for the burial of indigent veterans?

            2.         Upon the burial of an indigent veteran in a grave owned by the American Legion and in a cemetery owned by the City of Dayton, may the County Commissioners spend from the County Veterans Relief Fund the sum of $40.00 to purchase perpetual care for the grave from the City of Dayton?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            3.         May the County of Columbia accept title to the burial spaces and thereafter from the Veterans' Relief Fund purchase from the City of Dayton perpetual care for the spaces, or, in the alternative, pay from the fund the yearly maintenance charge on the burial spaces?

            It is our conclusion that each of these questions must be answered in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The foregoing answers to the questions propounded are based upon two statutes respecting (1) the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Fund, and (2) the burial provisions of the statute respecting veterans.

            RCW 73.08.010 reads, in part, as follows:

            "For the relief of indigent and suffering soldiers, sailors, and marines * * * and their families or the families of those deceased, who need assistance in any city, town, or precinct in this state, the board of county commissioners shall provide such sum or sums of money as may be necessary.  * * *"

            RCW 73.24.010 reads:

            "The board of county commissioners in each of the counties of the state shall inter, at the expense of the county, the body of any honorably discharged soldier, sailor, or marine who served in the United States army, navy, or marine corps, or any honorably discharged member of the armed forces of the United States, as specified in the enumeration contained in RCW 73.08.010, and the wives, husbands, minor children, widows, or widowers of such persons, who die without leaving means sufficient to defray funeral expenses, when requested so to do by the commanding officer or the relief committee of any post, camp, or chapter, of a national veterans' organization as limited in said RCW 73.08.010:  Provided, That such interment shall not cost more than one hundred eighty dollars.  Burial shall not be by any official designated by law for the care of paupers or the custody of criminals.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "If the deceased has relatives or friends who desire to conduct the burial of such deceased person, then upon request of the commanding officer, or relief committee, a sum not to exceed one hundred eighty dollars shall be paid to the relatives or friends, by the county treasurer, upon due proof of the death and burial of any person provided for by this section and proof of expenses incurred."

            It is our opinion that it was the intention of the legislature in establishing section 73.08.010 that relief under the statute should be limited toliving indigent veterans and the dependent wives, husbands, widows, widowers and children of such indigent or deceased veteran.

            The second statute cited above makes provision only for the burial expenses of veterans and their qualified dependents under the statute.  In this connection, we refer you to AGO 51-53, No. 97, dated July 31, 1951, [[to Mr. E. B. Riley, Director, Veterans' Rehabilitation Council]]in which this office concluded refer you to AGO 51-53, No. 97, dated July 31, 1951, in which this office concluded that a headstone transportation charge for existing veterans' graves would not be a valid county expenditure under this statute.  We enclose a copy of the former opinion for your information.

            In addition to the foregoing analysis, we refer you to RCW 73.24.020 in which special legislation was required and passed in 1937 for the perpetual care of a veteran's plot at Olympia, Washington; indicating to us that the legislature did not contemplate in either of the above statutes the inclusion of perpetual care of veterans' graves.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


DONALD E. WATSON
Assistant Attorney General

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