0403-Div of Human Services General Administration Fund, 5469-Children's Trust Fund, 0407-Central Office General Administrative Fund, 5144 Vital Statistics Account, 5225 Vital Improvement Account

Sources of Revenue:

General Fund,Special Fund

Legislation creates:

Neither Program nor Fund

Fiscal Note Summary

Effect this measure will have on costs and revenues of state government.

    The purpose of this bill is to provide for the issuance, without charge, of up to five certified copies of a veterans' death certificate by the clerk of the county commission.
    Additional copies must be purchased at the regular fee except when a death certificate is needed to obtain benefits from the federal government as specified in section twelve-a, article four, chapter fifty-one of the code. Therefore, even after distributing five free death certificates, additional death certificates can still be issued free when applying for federal benefits.
     A veteran shall be construed to mean any person who has served in the Armed Forces of the United States as defined in section one, article one, chapter nine-a of the code. The preliminary 2010 death file held by the Vital Registration Office shows approximately 21,238 deaths in West Virginia. The Department of Health and Human Resources handles approximately 90% of the death certificate sales for the state. The Bureau for Public Health, Vital Statistics Center estimates that approximately 24.3% of all deaths are showing a veteran status. Therefore, the Department estimates the state would lose $278,685 in total death certificate sales by the passage of this legislation.

Fiscal Note Detail

Effect of Proposal Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year
(Upon Full
1. Estmated Total Cost 0 0 0
Personal Services 0 0 0
Current Expenses 0 0 0
Repairs and Alterations 0 0 0
Assets 0 0 0
Other 0 0 0
2. Estimated Total Revenues 0 -278,685 -278,685

Explanation of above estimates (including long-range effect):

     The current cost of a death certificate is $12.00. If DHHR loses the sale of five certificates from each veteran death, the loss of total sales would be approximately $278,685 (21,238 x 90% of the "market share" x 24.3% veteran status x 5 copies x $12 per copy).
    The total loss in revenue as a result of this legislation is $278,685. One third of the $12 fee collected is deposited into the general revenue fund (a loss of $92,895 annually) and the remaining two-thirds is deposited into two special revenue accounts for the Department (a loss of $185,790).
    The portion deposited into the general revenue fund, is appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Resources (Division of Human Services) to be transferred to the Children's Trust Fund and used for Child Abuse Prevention activities.


    The language in this bill is not precise and makes no distinction between deaths that occurred yesterday and deaths that occurred 100 years ago. Death certificates are recorded in the county of occurrence and in the county of residence if the county of residence is different than the county of occurrence; this bill does not state which county will be responsible for providing the five free copies of the death certificate. The proposed language says, “family members and dependents"; this could mean a wide variety of people and cause confusion.
    The proposed language states, family members and dependents can obtain up to five certified copies of a veteran's death certificate; this could result in confusion among County Clerks, DHHR, and family members as to who should be the recipients of these death certificates. The negative fiscal impact on the Vital Registration Office would harm projects envisioned to improve the system of vital statistics in West Virginia both from the customer service viewpoint and from the viewpoint of expected mandated federal intelligence reforms. Additionally, no estimates have been made on the negative impact on the finances to the county clerks across West Virginia who would likely also have to record, in perpetuity, that 5 free copies have been distributed. Also, due to imprecise language the proposed bill could force them to provide death certificates without compensation for decedents who have died decades ago for purely genealogical use. This could be substantial.

    Person submitting Fiscal Note: Michael J. Lewis, M.D., Ph.D.
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