Nearly 155 years since the first national celebration of what would become Memorial Day took place at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), a significant threat remains to the eligibility for interment with military honors at the hallowed site – a threat MOAA needs your help to stop.
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your House Member to Support the Expanding America's National Cemetery Act]
The proposed federal rule for an ANC eligibility reduction still looms, but support for a long-term solution is growing. And just as the Grand Army of the Republic – an association of Civil War veterans – championed the cause of Decoration Day, MOAA continues its work alongside The Military Coalition in the fight to preserve honors that matter intensely to those who serve and have served, their families, and their survivors.
What are we up against? Views like those expressed by one legislative staffer, who said, “No one promised you burial with military honors.”
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It’s a position ignoring the service and sacrifice of so many veterans who would lose ANC eligibility under the proposed rule changes. This includes many 20-year retirees, women veterans whose service came before many roles were open to all, and the most troubling of the exclusions – older veterans with plans in place for ANC who could face agonizing and unexpected decisions in the coming months or years.
The eligibility reduction criteria focus on maintaining eligibility for those who received close-combat awards, limiting interment to those with a Purple Heart or Silver Star and above. Veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam eras who have planned on this benefit for decades would be subject to this proposed reduction.
[HEAR FROM THESE VETERANS: Closing the Gates? Why Congress Must Act on Arlington National Cemetery]
These flawed eligibility changes stem from flawed instructions to the Department of the Army from Congress, which prioritized the availability of ANC real estate – which will run out in coming decades whether or not the changes take effect – over promises made to veterans. The solution: The Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act (H.R. 1413), which has grown to over 41 co-sponsors as postcards from the May issue of Military Officer magazine continue to flow into offices.
This bipartisan bill is championed by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), both members of the House Armed Services Committee. H.R. 1413 offers a long-term solution authorizing DoD and the VA to transform an existing VA-run national cemetery into the next location that will afford interment with equivalent military honors as ANC reaches capacity.
How You Can Help
As Memorial Day approaches, take one or more of the steps below to amplify MOAA’s request for lawmakers to co-sponsor this bill (Check the list of co-sponsors at this link):
- Activate your network to write and call your representatives and ask them to co-sponsor H.R.1413.
- Encourage your network and family to use MOAA’s Capital Hotline – 866-272-MOAA (6622) – a toll-free line to the U.S. Capitol switchboard, to connect with their legislators' offices.
- Share this link to MOAA’s Legislative Action Center on social media. It will allow all who see it to generate a message to their lawmaker in support of the bill.
- Ask other local military and veterans service organizations, such as local posts, to call and engage on this issue.
Unsure what to say to your network or your House member? Consider these talking points:
- Long-Term Fix Needed: No matter the eligibility changes, ANC eventually will run out of room. An enduring solution is required to maintain an equivalent level of benefits.
- Partnership Makes Sense: The VA runs 155 national cemeteries. DoD runs only ANC and the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery. While DoD’s primary focus for resources is national security, partnering with the VA will provide an integrative approach with resources – the VA can run operations, and the armed services can provide ceremonial honors at the equivalent level of ANC.
- Honoring Service: Put simply, transforming a VA national cemetery to afford military honors would sustain service-earned benefits.
Make your voice heard this Memorial Day and join the grassroots effort to protect these earned honors. You can follow updates on this and other MOAA advocacy campaigns at MOAA’s Advocacy News page.
MOAA Looks Out For You
MOAA is committed to protecting the rights of servicemembers and their families. Lend your voice and support these efforts today. Because the larger our voice is, the greater our impact will be.