ACT NOW: Don’t Miss a Chance to Weigh in on Arlington Cemetery Rule Changes

ACT NOW: Don’t Miss a Chance to Weigh in on Arlington Cemetery Rule Changes
Fall foliage rests in Section 21 of Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

Time is running out to weigh in on proposed Arlington National Cemetery eligibility changes.


The deadline to make your voice heard is Nov. 16. With nearly 1,500 comments already submitted on the Federal Register website, members of Congress are taking notice.


[TAKE ACTION: Submit a Comment | Contact Your Lawmaker]


We are entering the final period for the public to make comments on the secretary of the Army’s proposed eligibility changes. Reaching out to your network to encourage more comments could impact the rule-making process:

  • Ask your friends and family to leave a formal comment as part of the Federal Register public comment period.
  • Ask your lawmakers to push back on this shortsighted process through correspondence and a phone call to their local office. They need to know these proposed changes are discriminatory by service and gender, and will force countless retirees to change their plans.


The public comment period opened Sept. 15. MOAA will continue to encourage our members and others to comment. Click this link to go directly to the comment page. Or, you can read the full proposed rule at this link and make your comments there by clicking the “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT” button in the upper right corner. Get more about the changes, including MOAA’s concerns, at this link.


What Should I Write on the Federal Register?

It is important for your comments to be yours alone, and not the product of mass mailings. Use your own words to highlight your personal story and these key concerns:


The Importance of Full Military Honors. ANC staff and planners are eager to point out that there are over 150 VA-run cemeteries available. Full military honors are not available at most of these VA facilities, and the proposed changes do not account for plans already made. It is important to explain why a VA cemetery is not an acceptable alternative for your family.


For many of us this is a family affair, where full military honors matter intensely and plans were established years ago. Some MOAA members have even pre-paid a service that includes transportation to ANC as part of their end-of-life plan. Discussing the lasting impact on your family of another reduced benefit is important to convey.


Another Broken Promise. For many of us with cemetery plans, the proposed eligibility changes are seen as the erosion of another service-earned benefit that comes, at least in part, as a cost-saving measure. While the current boundary of ANC eventually will reach full capacity, a national cemetery with full military honors should be an enduring mission, even if it eventually requires non-contiguous expansion. This is more than an isolated math and geography problem.


Working expansion now, rather than reducing eligibility, is how our nation should address the finite space while continuing to proffer honors and maintain commitments well into the future.


[RELATED: ‘Please Do the Right Thing’: Commenters Weigh in on Proposed Arlington Cemetery Changes]


Discriminatory in Nature. The proposed changes discriminate by service, gender, and military function. They risk communicating a diminished value of career-long service for those who were not involved in close combat or injured by the enemy, but who shared equal risks and valuable service in the air, sea, hospital, or missile silo.  


MOAA and The Military Coalition – a group of military and veterans service organizations representing a combined 5.5 million-plus membership – outlined this and other concerns in an Aug. 14 letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. MOAA is a co-chair of the 35-member TMC.  


What Is Next?

When the Federal Register public comment closes, it will take over a year to reconcile and resolve legal challenges before approval. Existing ANC standards will remain in effect during that time.


Intervention from elected officials may be required to change course for reduced eligibility for our national cemetery. Congressional staff members have already indicated It is not too early to reach out to your elected officials and voice your concerns. 


MOAA Knows Why You Serve

We understand the needs and concerns of military families – and we’re here to help you meet life’s challenges along the way. Join MOAA now and get the support you need.

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About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as Director, Currently Serving and Retired Affairs.