This article originally appeared in the October 10, 2019, issue of the Memorial Business Journal.
Ryan D. McCarthy, acting secretary of the Army, has proposed revised eligibility criteria for interment and inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). The Army will now begin the federal government’s public rulemaking process, which includes soliciting public feedback to the proposed changes.
The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directed the secretary of the Army to establish revised eligibility criteria to keep the cemetery functioning as an active burial ground “well into the future” (defined as 150 years).
At the outset, the Army established critical imperatives to guide this effort: sacrifice, service and impact. “Arlington National Cemetery is a national shrine for all Americans but especially those who have served our great nation,” said McCarthy. “We must ensure that it can honor those we have lost for many years to come.”
The process involved more than two and a half years of thoughtful deliberation, public outreach and surveys, including feedback from veterans and military service organizations, along with active engagement with ANC senior leaders and the ANC Advisory Committee.
While ANC continues to look for ways to expand, that alone will not solve the existing demand for burial space. If no changes are made, ANC will be closed to new interments by the mid-2050s – even for Medal of Honor recipients.
In addition to directing ANC to preserve 1,000 gravesites for current and future Medal of Honor recipients, the secretary proposed revised eligibility criteria for those who honorably served our nation, as broadly outlined below.
For below-ground interment:
- Killed in action, to include repatriated remains of service members
- Award recipients of the Silver Star and above who also served in combat
- Purple Heart recipients
- Combat-related service deaths while conducting uniquely military activities
- Former prisoners of war
- U.S. presidents and vice presidents
- Veterans with combat service who also served out of uniform as a government official and made significant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service.
For above-ground inurnment:
- World War II-era veterans, to include legislated active-duty designees
- Retirees from the armed forces who are eligible to receive retired pay but are not otherwise eligible for interment
- Veterans who have served a minimum of two years on active duty and who have served in combat
- Veterans without combat service who also served out of uniform as a government official and made significant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service.
Eventual implementation of revised eligibility at ANC will not affect previously scheduled services. Additionally, the proposed revisions will not affect veterans’ burial benefits or veteran eligibility at Department of Veterans Affairs national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries.
The next step to implementing the proposed rule is notice and public comment rulemaking in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, amending the current eligibility rule found at 32 Code of Federal Regulations Part 553. The clearance process is expected to take a minimum of nine months to make public in the Federal Register for citizens to comment.
As this proposed revised eligibility criteria is undergoing the aforementioned process and is potentially s subject to change, it would be inappropriate to discuss any specifics at this time.