Washington Report 102008

Date Published: 
Original Author: 
Robert M. Fells
Original Publication: 
ICCFA Magazine

ICCFA alerts private sector partners about planning for mass fatalities 

The ICCFA has published an informational alert to government entities and to the pri- vate sector in the August 2008 edition of The Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Report, published by George Mason University School of Law.
The CIP Report is part of the ongoing efforts of the university and its partners to prepare the nation for catastrophes, either natural (hurricanes, pandemics) or man-made (terrorism). This monthly report is widely circulated throughout academia, the private sector, federal and state government agencies and Congress.
The article, "Mass Fatalities Management in the Context of Disaster Planning," focuses on the work of the Mass Fatalities Management (MFM) Services Sub-Council, which functions in con- junction with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.
An ongoing challenge for the sub-council is to convince other stakeholders, including govern- ment agencies and other private sector groups such as transportation, energy, chemical, banking and finance, that they will be affected by MFM, or the lack thereof. Therefore, it has become cru- cial to raise the awareness level of other stake- holders to participate and coordinate their emer- gency responses to include MFM needs.
The MFM Sub-Council is one of nine sub- councils developed under the Healthcare Sector Coordinating Council, the private sector counter- part of the Government Healthcare Coordinating Council. Members on the MFM Sub-Council represent “the full spectrum of personnel and services needed after death, including medical examiners, coroners, funeral directors, cremation- ists, cemeterians, clergy and manufacturers and distributors of funeral, memorial and cremation supplies. Major trade associations in the death care industry are also represented on the MFM.” The sub-council has established several pri- mary goals through partnering with the federal and state governments. “First, the sub-council’s position is that a Mass Fatalities Management Component should be developed and incorporat- ed into the National Response Framework and all other federal agency response plans and policies.
"These plans should include policies and pro- cedures dealing with the dignified recovery, stor- age, identification and processing of remains as well as the timely issuance of death certificates and the orderly conduct of the funeral and final disposition." The article in the CIP Report also discusses the sub-council’s other goals.
A major project for the Sub-Council is to "coordinate with fellow sectors whose goods and services are integral to the success of comprehen- sive mass fatalities management services. For example, the transportation sector will affect the supply chain; the chemical sector supplies em- balming supplies and disinfectants; water avail- ability is critical for the mortuary and cremation processes; and food and agriculture could assist with a need for refrigerated trucks and facilities if needed." The article was authored by ICCFA General Counsel Bob Fells, who co-chairs the MFM Sub-Council. Anyone interested in obtain- ing more info about CIP or in subscribing to the report (free of charge), should go to http://cipp.gmu.edu.

Dollar limit on qualified funeral trust is repealed 

President Bush recently signed into law H.R. 6580, known as the Hubbard Act.
Although the law's main purpose is to pro- vide veterans’ benefits to members of the Armed Forces who are discharged early from the service because they are the sole surviving support of their family (only about 20 individuals annually are expected to benefit from this law), the expen- ses incurred under the law will be defrayed by the additional revenue to the U.S. Treasury from repeal of the dollar limits on Qualified Funeral Trusts (QFTs).
The QFT election gives the trustee of a pre- need funeral trust the option to pay the tax on trust earnings in lieu of the owner of the funds paying the tax, i.e., the customer. However, QFTs had a dollar limit, currently $9,000. Beyond that amount, the election could not be made for more expensive contracts and the customer was res- ponsible for the tax. The repeal contained in H.R. 6580, section 9, means that trustees may opt for QFT treatment regardless of the dollar amount.
The effective date for the repeal of the dollar limit is "taxable years beginning after the date of the enactment of this act." This has been interpreted to mean for taxable years beginning in 2009.