NDAA Amendment Could Stop Proposed Arlington Burial Eligibility Changes

NDAA Amendment Could Stop Proposed Arlington Burial Eligibility Changes
Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery

A Senate floor amendment to the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would delay proposed eligibility changes at Arlington National Cemetery until the completion of a joint DoD-VA report on the location of the next national cemetery to provide full military honors.

 

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

 

The House version of the NDAA includes the following language, championed by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), which was approved by the House Armed Services Committee through unanimous consent thanks to your engagement:

 

The committee is aware of upcoming changes in eligibility for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. The committee is concerned that veterans who previously qualified for in-ground burials at Arlington National Cemetery will be forced to choose between being cremated and being buried somewhere else. The committee directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit a report to congressional defense committees no later than March 1, 2022, on potential locations of the next national cemetery.

 

The language in the House version, while a positive measure, may not be strong enough to change the course of the federal rulemaking process. But an amendment to be submitted by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) would direct DoD not to alter any eligibility criteria until the submission of a joint report from DoD and the VA to designate the next national cemetery that affords full military honors.

 

MOAA supports the language included in the Senate amendment and encourages you to show your support by contacting your lawmakers and urging them to ensure it finds a place in the final NDAA. Because time is short on the NDAA, a phone call is 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. You can also visit our Take Action website to send a letter.

 

Why Action Is Needed Now

The reduction of the full military honors benefit for many will occur if Congress fails to intervene.

 

DoD must comply with language in the 2019 NDAA requiring a plan to continue ANC operations “well into the future” through an eligibility reduction. The change could be published soon and would reduce the full military honors benefit for many who have long had Arlington National Cemetery as their planned resting place. This would be especially hard-hitting for Vietnam veterans and their families.

 

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

 

MOAA and The Military Coalition (TMC), a group of 35 military and veteran service organizations (including MOAA) with a combined membership of nearly 5.5 million, are concerned proposed changes 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 -- there are 155 National Cemeteries administered by the VA, but only the DoD-run Arlington National Cemetery affords full military honors. 

 

This shortsighted proposal also represents one more reduced benefit for those currently eligible and for future servicemembers.

 

MOAA and TMC each sent a letter to the armed services committees earlier this year outlining these problems with the proposed changes. Congress must intervene or risk quietly breaking a promise and reducing one more benefit. With the current eligibility standards, ANC will not run out of room until sometime after 2050, yet the proposed eligibility change still looms.

 

[READ THE LETTERS: MOAA | TMC]

 

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.