MOAA Sends a Message to Lawmakers on Arlington Cemetery Eligibility Changes

MOAA Sends a Message to Lawmakers on Arlington Cemetery Eligibility Changes
Modified funeral honors with funeral escort are conducted for 1st Lt. Robert Charles Styslinger, USA, in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on June 18. (Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

An extended schedule for the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides lawmakers an opportunity to intervene on planned eligibility changes at Arlington National Cemetery – discriminatory changes that will dramatically reduce the benefit of full military honors.

 

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

 

Your letters, emails, and phone calls are important to change course on the proposed eligibility changes. Staff members with lawmakers from across the country have reached out to MOAA to better understand the issue and develop a solution.

 

MOAA recently sent a letter to leadership on both the House and Senate Armed Services committees, asking them to use the NDAA as a vehicle to direct DoD “to designate the next national cemetery that affords full military honors and to leave unchanged the current eligibility requirements earned through military service.”

 

If Congress doesn’t act, “the change in eligibility puts the burden of a solution on the currently eligible servicemembers and their families – including those who have long had Arlington as their plan for final rest,” wrote MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret).

 

[READ THE LETTER]

 

Continued engagement from constituents is still necessary. Don’t just send an email: Call (866) 272-MOAA (6622), MOAA's toll-free line to the U.S. Capitol switchboard, to be connected with your legislators' offices.

 

Sometimes it can take multiple engagements to get through to the correct staff member. Multiple forms of communication can make a real difference: Consider sending a copy of your correspondence to the Armed Services Committee leadership in both chambers, as well (House | Senate).

 

Some lawmakers incorrectly believe the problem of Arlington eligibility has been solved and grandfathering was achieved -- confusion stemming from a Congressional Research Service report.

 

[DETAILS ON THE PROPOSAL: Arlington Cemetery Eligibility Could Change Soon]

 

ANC eventually will run out of room, even with the proposed eligibility change, and an enduring solution is required to ensure our nation will continue to provide full military honors as a benefit. With current eligibility standards, ANC will not run out of room until 2050, leaving ample time to develop the enduring solution.

 

The 2017 ANC report to Congress outlining the capacity concerns offered a course of action to continue providing the current benefit of full military honors to those now eligible and solve the space problem: Option 3.2.2.3 in the report, republished below, would require legislation to establish a new national cemetery that will afford full military honors at a new location:

 

“ANC, as it operates today, cannot endure forever in its current space. Looking 100-200 years into the future, how and where will we honor our Nation’s heroes? Another option, which the Army recognizes would represent a significant change, is establishing a new Department of Defense-run national cemetery in another location. This would mean building a new cemetery in a suitable place that would offer the same burial honors as ANC. While it is impossible to recreate the aesthetic appeal and history of ANC, this new cemetery could grow to become iconic over time, in the same way that ANC has gradually evolved over the past 150 years. Operating ANC as an active burial ground for as long as possible would allow a phase of overlap and continuity while establishing the new space.”

 

MOAA will continue to engage Congress on Arlington National Cemetery, and we need your voice as constituents. Reach out to your lawmakers and ask them to include language in the FY 2022 NDAA that would require DoD to designate the next national cemetery.

 

Support MOAA’s NDAA Efforts

You can make your voice heard on these MOAA priorities by asking your lawmakers to co-sponsor bills addressing these issues in the current legislative session. The more support these bills have, the better the chance of their inclusion in the final NDAA:

Visit MOAA's Take Action Center

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.