Arlington Cemetery Update: Bill Would Fix Unjust Changes, But It Needs Support

Arlington Cemetery Update: Bill Would Fix Unjust Changes, But It Needs Support
A view from above of Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

A long-term legislative solution will preserve burial with full military honors for countless elderly and women veterans who could lose that earned benefit – but only if MOAA members and others encourage their lawmakers to act.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Co-Sponsor the Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act]


The Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act of 2022 has yet to be introduced in either chamber.  A draft version of the law doesn’t specifically address the planned reduction of eligibility at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), but it takes significant steps toward a long-term solution. The bill would:

  • Authorize the transformation of a VA-run national cemetery “to continue provision of full military honors” prior to Arlington reaching capacity. This would remove the space restrictions at Arlington which led to the ill-conceived eligibility changes now working their way through the federal rulemaking process.

  • Ensure all eligibility criteria used for full military honors at the proposed cemetery are the same as those in effect for ANC as of March 31, 2022. This would make Congress’ intent clear regarding eligibility changes beyond that date, increasing the likelihood of the current process staying in place.

  • Require a joint DoD/VA report covering both cemetery expansion and any new eligibility criteria, paying special attention to women veterans and to those whose military careers did not include service in combat. This further clarifies Congress’ intent to better account for these groups in the eligibility process.


[RELATED: Public Memorial Day Events Return to VA National Cemeteries]


Original co-sponsors of this legislation will be key to its success, either as a standalone bill or included in the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That’s why MOAA is asking its members to reach out now, even before the bill is introduced, to rally support behind this critical measure at this critical time.


Why It Matters

Despite its Southern Expansion, and despite eligibility restrictions designed to extend the life of the cemetery, ANC eventually will run out of room. Changing the rules is a cost-cutting measure – one that comes on the backs of military retirees and others whose final plans included burial at a national cemetery. It’s also shortsighted – a long-term solution involving the transformation of an existing VA national cemetery is cost-sensitive and establishes efficiencies by relying on existing VA expertise.


And it’s discriminatory: As the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) put it in a February letter to congressional leadership, “Suddenly, most living veterans eligible for burial at ANC, many of whom served in critical operations at sea or in the air and all but a few women – who were barred by law from service in combat occupations and units until recently – will be denied internment at ANC despite their dedication, gallant, and often dangerous service to their Country.”




What’s Next

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees will begin marking up the NDAA in the coming weeks. The House Armed Services Committee included report language in last year’s NDAA for a joint DoD and VA report on the ANC issue, with unanimous consent, only to have it removed by the Senate. Outreach to your elected officials, especially your two senators, will help improve the chances for the Expanding America’s National Cemetery act to be included in the FY 2023 NDAA.


If you’ve already sent a message, consider a follow-up phone call. 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.


Ask your lawmakers to honor our military families by preserving this earned benefit and allowing veterans to keep their long-held plans for a final resting place. Stay tuned to MOAA’s Advocacy News Page for updates.


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.

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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.