Our National Veterans Day Ceremony is a sacred event held at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month each year to honor our veterans and those currently serving. Steeped in tradition dating back to the armistice that ended World War I, the military honors rendered at ANC are woven into the fabric of our national conscience.
Unfortunately, a federal rule which would severely limit eligibility for burial at ANC remains in process. Under the proposed rule, most retirees and veterans currently eligible for ANC interment with military honors no longer would have access to that service-earned benefit.
Some senior officials and staff have proposed relying on awards to determine ANC interment eligibility, requiring a Silver Star or above, or a Purple Heart. This would send an awful message, especially for our Vietnam veterans, who have long planned on ANC as their final resting place.
“No one promised you full military honors at your funeral,” said one staffer – a troubling indicator of the challenge faced by MOAA and other military and veteran advocacy groups when only 18% of lawmakers have served in uniform.
[MILITARY COALITION ANC ISSUE PAPER: Download and Share With Your Lawmakers]
Military honors at interment at ANC are significant for our community, and many veterans and family members are unaware of the ongoing effort to reduce eligibility. The proposal was derived from language in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directing DoD to develop a plan to ensure ANC would continue to operate “well into the future.” Congress can correct the current shortsighted proposal with bipartisan legislation such as the Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act (H.R. 1413).
The bill would prevent the erosion of a service-earned benefit, a move which would alienate veterans and retirees during a time of recruiting challenges for the all-volunteer force. As 83% of current recruits come from military families, it’s important to show the meaning of tradition and national service, and to understand how much traditions such as military honors at interment matter to families who continue to volunteer and serve.
[FROM THE CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE: Eligibility Reduction Details]
Report language in the House version of the NDAA would require a joint report from DoD and the VA on their recommendations for the “next ANC” to sustain honors at internment. With current eligibility standards, ANC will not run out of room for over 40 years; surely we can come up with a solution without reducing eligibility … but the threat remains.
You can help by asking your lawmaker to support H.R. 1413 via MOAA’s Legislative Action Center. The bill had just 71 co-sponsors as of Nov. 6; we need to grow support so it is included in the next NDAA.
The proposed eligibility reduction has cleared the public comment stage of the federal rulemaking process and has been drafted as a final rule by the Army, but DoD has yet to approve this draft. Thankfully, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has not moved the eligibility reduction proposal forward, and MOAA does not anticipate the rules to go into effect soon.
Still, Congress must pass legislation to reverse course. Please write and call your lawmakers and ask them to support H.R. 1413 to designate the “next ANC” as it reaches capacity. You can also help by contacting both of your senators: We do not have a Senate companion bill to H.R. 1413 yet, and grassroots advocacy can make an impact.
How to Make a Difference
Please share this link as widely as you can. Encourage your extended network to take action; you do not need to be a MOAA member to use our Legislative Action Center. We have many enlisted members and extended family who have taken action to protect this important benefit.
[FROM MOAA: Your Guide to Military Burials]
You can also share MOAA’s Capitol Hotline – 866-272-MOAA (6622), a toll-free line to the U.S. Capitol switchboard. Be sure to ask to speak with the military legislative assistant or legislative director, and remember these points:
- ANC eventually will run out of room. A shortsighted proposal to reduce eligibility is in the federal rulemaking process. An enduring solution is required to maintain an equivalent level of benefits. Reducing eligibility and cutting benefits sends an awful message as the all-volunteer force struggles to find qualified recruits.
- H.R.1413 offers a long-term solution to designate the “next ANC” to afford full military honors at interment and sustain an equivalent of ANC benefits.
- The VA runs 155 national cemeteries, and the DoD runs ANC. ANC doesn’t run out of room with current eligibility standards for over 40 years (until 2064), and a proposal to reduce eligibility unfairly impacts our community – especially Vietnam veterans and women veterans.
- Cooperation between DoD and the VA can offer a solution but would require legislation. Please co-sponsor H.R. 1413 and help our nation keep its promise. H.R. 1413 will authorize 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.
- The VA will administratively run the facility and DoD will provide ceremonial support.
- Recommend maintaining current eligibility until the next location is designated and operational.
As we celebrate our nation’s veterans, take time to help protect their service-earned benefit … and to preserve the long-held plans for final rest at Arlington National Cemetery for many fellow MOAA members and others. Join MOAA in this fight today.