MOAA’s Work Continues to Preserve Earned Burial Benefits

MOAA’s Work Continues to Preserve Earned Burial Benefits
Marines conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for Maj. Gen. Harry Pickett, USMC, in Section 52 of Arlington National Cemetery on July 19, 2023. (Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Army)

Many military retirees face a significant threat to their eligibility for interment with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery – and legislation is required for a long-term solution.


MOAA and others in our veteran and military advocacy community have long supported H.R. 1413, the Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act. This election year, your messages to lawmakers about this legislation matter more than ever.


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


Why This Bill Matters

The proposed federal rule for Arlington National Cemetery eligibility reduction still looms, and defense officials are looking for options to prevent a reduction in benefits directed by Congress in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 


The reduction would be felt by 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 Arlington who could face agonizing and unexpected decisions in the coming months or years.


The proposed 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. Not only is the criteria unfair to veterans who served bravely in positions where close combat was not part of their duty, there is no “grandfathering” statute to these proposals: Veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam eras who have planned on this benefit for decades would be subject to the new criteria.  


[HEAR FROM THESE VETERANS: Closing the Gates? Why Congress Must Act on Arlington National Cemetery]


The Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act – championed by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), both members of the House Armed Services Committee – 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 Arlington National Cemetery reaches capacity. This expansion would eliminate the need for reduced eligibility.


A Senate companion bill is required; outreach to your senators could make the difference by making this legislation bicameral and bipartisan.


Only 86 House members had co-sponsored the bill as of May 21. If your representative is not yet in support, please reach out via our Legislative Action Center or call their local office and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1413. They will not know what you need if you don’t ask this election year.


[RELATED: Air Force Colonel's Family Reacts After She's Denied Burial at Arlington National Cemetery]


How You Can Make a Difference

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 as Memorial Day approaches in the fight to preserve honors that matter intensely to those who serve and have served, their families, and their survivors.


You can support these efforts by taking one or more of the steps below to amplify MOAA’s request for lawmakers to co-sponsor this bill:

  • Download the information paper here and share it with your elected officials.

  • Activate your network to write and call your representatives and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1413. Ask your senators to introduce a Senate version of the same legislation. Friends, family members, and others in your network can call 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 lawmakers in support of the bill.

  • Ask other local military and veterans service organizations, such as local posts, to call and engage on this issue.  


[THE FINAL CHAPTER: Preparing for a Military Sponsor’s Death, and What to Do When It Happens]


Unsure what to say to your network, or to your legislators? Consider these talking points:

  • Long-Term Fix Needed: No matter the eligibility changes, Arlington National Cemetery 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 Arlington 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.

  • 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.


Your Guide to Military Burials

MOAA PREMIUM and LIFE Members can get information on this topic, including details on Arlington National Cemetery and VA-managed cemeteries.

Download Now

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.