Bill Would Preserve Full Burial Benefits as Arlington Cemetery Nears Capacity

Bill Would Preserve Full Burial Benefits as Arlington Cemetery Nears Capacity
Servicemembers conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort in Section 7 of Arlington National Cemetery on Jan. 9. (Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

A significant piece of legislation protecting full uniformed services burial benefits introduced March 7 offers a long-term solution to Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) inevitably running out of room.


The Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act (H.R. 1413), introduced in the House by Reps. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) is designed to preserve the option for full military honors now available at ANC. The legislation would authorize designating the next national cemetery location with equivalent honors to continue these benefits, rather than reducing eligibility at ANC.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your House Member to Support the Expanding America's National Cemetery Act]


The bill comes as a draft rule is looming in the Federal Register proposing a significant ANC eligibility reduction. If enacted, the move would break a promise and commitment to our uniformed services community, reducing eligibility for in-ground burial with full military honors to those awarded a Silver Star and above or a Purple Heart. The plan marks just one more reduced benefit for those who’ve served – one that could affect end-of-life plans in place for decades and discriminates against women veterans and others who served long careers in roles where combat-related honors weren’t accessible.


The planned reduction has cleared the comment stage of the federal rule process and is now undergoing staffing at the Secretary of Defense level. DoD is still required to comply with language in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directing the department to ensure ANC operations could continue “well into the future.”


[RELATED CHART: The Federal Rulemaking Process]


MOAA’s Position

It is a matter of national conscience to protect the benefit of in-ground burial with full military honors. With the current eligibility standards, ANC will not run out of room for another 42 years, affording time to develop a longer-term solution. A gradual transition to the “next ANC” will allow our nation to continue to honor families for lifetimes of service and sacrifice.


[ISSUE PAPER: Download MOAA's Fact Sheet (PDF) and Share With Your Lawmakers]


The proposed eligibility reduction would result in unthinkable repercussions for those who for decades have planned on interment with full military honors. MOAA asks that members of Congress protect this important benefit for those currently eligible and for future servicemembers.


“Military honors serve to comfort the grieving and instill pride in families who witness our nation’s final respects for their loved ones,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, USAF (Ret). “MOAA is proud to support the Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act and the steadfast work from Representatives McClain and Houlahan to ensure we keep our promise to our veterans and sustain this honor for future servicemembers. Continuing to honor service and sacrifice is essential to maintaining trust and increasing personal participation in our nation’s defense.”


Organizations across the uniformed services and veterans community will also weigh in again this year on a legislative solution.


[FOR PREMIUM AND LIFE MEMBERS: Your Guide to Military Burials (PDF Download)]


“The Military Coalition, representing 5.5 million servicemembers, veterans, and their families and survivors, thanks Representatives McClain and Houlahan, for the Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act,” said Jack Du Teil, president of The Military Coalition, which is made up of nearly three dozen member organizations including MOAA. “This important legislation will help ensure our nation executes its duty to properly honor those who pledged their very lives in its defense.  Moreover, by ensuring all who served receive the full, proper final respects they deserve will provide the loved ones they leave behind with the pride and comfort they should likewise be entitled to.”  


The Military Women’s Memorial Foundation, which represents some 3 million women who have served in, and with, the U.S. military, also supported the legislation. “Women have served this country honorably and courageously since the Revolutionary War, and this legislation ensures their service and sacrifice affords them the privilege of a full military honors funeral in a National Cemetery.” Foundation President Phyllis J. Wilson said.


Add your voice to these organizations’ efforts by contacting your House member at this link


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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.