Beyond Arlington: It’s Time for Congress to Consider Our Next National Cemetery

Beyond Arlington: It’s Time for Congress to Consider Our Next National Cemetery
Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery

The proposed eligibility change for Arlington National Cemetery has progressed through the federal rule-making process, and it is time for Congress to intervene.

 

The Military Coalition (TMC), a group of 35 military and veteran service organizations (including MOAA) with a combined membership of nearly 5.5 million, is concerned the changes could be published in the Federal Register sometime this fall. The proposed changes to eligibility are service and mission discriminatory and do not account for all-important military honors for those who would be forced to use a different cemetery. This shortsighted proposal also represents one more reduced benefit for those currently eligible and for future servicemembers.

 

[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Preserve the National Cemetery Benefit]

 

These changes are designed to extend the life of Arlington National Cemetery, but no matter what criteria are used, Arlington will run out of room one day. For that reason, it is necessary to designate the next national cemetery that will afford full military honors while maintaining current eligibility standards.

 

Finding the next national cemetery “is a matter of national conscience,” the coalition wrote in a recent letter to key lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services committees. You can read the full letter at this link (PDF).  

 

MOAA and the coalition want Congress to require a DoD/VA joint report on the location of the next national cemetery that will afford full military honors (administratively run by the VA) within a year of the passage of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and to sustain current eligibility standards for Arlington National Cemetery until the next location is operational.

 

The VA runs 155 national cemeteries, but only the DoD-run Arlington National Cemetery affords full military honors.  Our nation began using Arlington during the Civil War when the Soldier’s Home cemetery in Washington, D.C., was running out of room. As Arlington reaches capacity (estimated in 2050), it is logical to designate the next location and maintain standards rather than reduce the benefit though eligibility restrictions.  

 

What Is Next?

This week, members of the House Armed Services Committee are marking up their version of the NDAA. During this process, it is important for constituents to reach out to their lawmakers in both chambers; hearing from constituents affects the   process and informs future conferees who will resolve the differences between House and Senate NDAA language.

 

Be sure to send a copy of TMC’s letter along with your own to your lawmaker, and copy all correspondence to the leaders (chairman and ranking member) of the House and Senate Armed Service committees. Because time is short on the NDAA, a phone call is also warranted; use MOAA’s Capital Hotline – 866-272-MOAA (6622) – a toll-free line to the U.S. Capitol switchboard, to connect with your legislators' offices. Visit our Take Action website to send a letter now. 

 

MOAA will continue to work with members of the Armed Services committees throughout the NDAA process. You can keep up to date on the latest NDAA developments at MOAA.org/advocacy-news.

 

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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.