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New Restrictions Proposed for Burial at Arlington

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U.S. Army
Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Army is proposing dramatic new restrictions to the eligibility criteria for burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

If approved, the new criteria would tightly limit the number of service members eligible for below-ground interment at the cemetery and restrict even farther those who would qualify for above-ground inurnment.

The fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Army secretary to establish revised eligibility criteria to keep the cemetery functioning as an active burial ground “well into the future,” the Army said in a Sept. 25 statement.

“Arlington National Cemetery is a national shrine for all Americans, but especially those who have served our great nation,” said acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy in a statement. “We must ensure it can honor those we have lost for many years to come.”

The cemetery just outside Washington, D.C., one of America’s most hallowed grounds, is running out of room, and there have been several initiatives to try to preserve space for the future, including expansion projects and proposals to tighten eligibility requirements for burial there. 

During fiscal 2018, about 6,500 service members, veterans and eligible family members were buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The proposed changes come after more than two and a half years of deliberation, public outreach and surveys, including feedback from veterans and military service organizations, according to the Army.

If no changes are made, the cemetery will be closed to new interments by the mid-2050s, the Army said.

The proposal directs the cemetery to preserve 1,000 gravesites for current and future Medal of Honor recipients.

It also would restrict below-ground interment for service members who are killed in action, recipients of the Silver Star or above who also served in combat, Purple Heart recipients, combat-related service deaths while conducting uniquely military activities, former prisoners of war, presidents and vice presidents of the United States, and 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.

Above-ground inurnment in vaults would be reserved for World War II-era veterans, to include legislated active-duty designees; retirees from the armed forces who are eligible for retired pay but are not otherwise eligible for interment; veterans who have served at least two years on active duty and who have served in combat; and 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.

The Army is now seeking public comment in accordance with the federal government’s public rulemaking process, which includes soliciting public feedback to the proposed changes.

For more information, visit https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/