The $715 billion DoD budget released by the White House last month includes $228 million for Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), a $146 million year-over-year increase thanks in large part to $141 million in support of ANC’s southern expansion.
MOAA and its colleagues in The Military Coalition (TMC) – a group of military and veterans service organizations representing a combined 5.5 million-plus membership – support this expansion and appreciate the ongoing capacity concerns of ANC officials. However, this project (and the funds behind it) do not represent a permanent fix, and plans to address these concerns still call for unfair, unjust rule changes that could affect the end-of-life plans for now-eligible 20-year retirees.
MOAA and TMC have called on DoD leadership to reassess these plans, which would prevent most military retirees from receiving an in-ground burial at ANC and the unique honors that go with it. MOAA members and others have registered their concerns in large numbers, with nearly 2,000 people taking part in an online comment period that ended in November.
The planned expansion will add 60,000 burial sites to ANC – enough to extend the availability of in-ground burial for several decades, but far from a permanent solution. MOAA and TMC have stressed three key points throughout this process – points you can make clear to your lawmaker:
- Fix the rules. The proposed eligibility changes discriminate against many of those who spent decades in dedicated service. Members of bomber or submarine crews, for example, may not have had the ability to attain the service awards required under the new criteria, nor would women who served prior to many specialties being open to all in uniform.
- Grandfather those eligible. Twenty-year retirees and others who are now eligible should retain that eligibility regardless of the final shape of any new criteria. This would allow them to keep existing end-of-life plans and avoid painful decisions for family members.
- Designate the next national cemetery. ANC will run out of space regardless of eligibility criteria. The proposed changes came as a result of a process that prioritized eligibility changes over plans for noncontiguous expansion. Instead of focusing on limiting the number of eligible retirees and veterans, officials must begin in earnest efforts to establish a location for the next national cemetery.
[RELATED AT MILITARY.COM: Budget Request for Arlington Cemetery Nearly Triples Amid Plans for Major Expansion]
This year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gives lawmakers the ideal platform to act on these priorities. Write to your representatives today and make your voice heard; MOAA will continue its efforts on this issue throughout the NDAA process.
Your Guide to Military Burials
MOAA PREMIUM and LIFE Members can get information on this topic, including details on Arlington National Cemetery and VA-managed cemeteries.