House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Chairman Christopher H. Smith, 335 Cannon House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515
December 07, 2001

Smith Unveils Legislation To Reform Burial Rules at Arlington National Cemetery

Bill Would Ensure Access for Retired Reservists, Such as Captain Burlingame, and Reservists Killed During Training

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has introduced legislation, H.R. 3423 to reform eligibility rules for burial of reservists at Arlington National Cemetery.  The Smith bill would change existing law by eliminating the age requirement for retired reservists who would otherwise be eligible for in-ground burial.  In addition, H.R. 3423 would allow in-ground burial of reservists who die in the line of duty while on training duty.

Smith’s legislation would change the Army rule which is preventing Captain Charles Burlingame, the pilot of flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11th, from receiving full burial rights at Arlington.

“Burial at Arlington National Cemetery is an honor that we bestow upon those members of our armed forces for service above and beyond the call of duty,” said Smith.  “While it is understandable that the Army would want to maintain strict eligibility rules because of the limited capacity at Arlington, people like Captain Burlingame should not be prevented from receiving the nation’s highest tribute to the family of a deceased warrior,” he said.

“Furthermore, H.R. 3423 will provide the families of reserve members who die while performing training duty, such as weekend or two-week reserve duty, with the right to have an in-ground burial for their loved ones at Arlington,” said Smith.  “Given the increased responsibilities assigned to our Reserve and National Guard forces, I believe that a compassionate government should treat these reserve component members whose death is in the line of duty in the same manner as those active duty members whose death occurs in the line of duty,” he said.

Since 1967, burials rights at Arlington have been limited to veterans and the families of veterans who were wounded in combat, died on active duty, received one of the military services’ highest awards for gallantry, were held as a prisoner of war, retired from military service or served in a high federal office.  Last year, 3,727 veterans and family members were buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which is administered by the Department of the Army.

In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs administers 133 national cemeteries throughout the United States, and since 1980 has provided $82 million in grants to states to establish or expand 42 state veterans cemeteries.  Last year, over 82,000 veterans and family members were interred in VA cemeteries and more than 14,000 veterans and family members were buried in state veterans cemeteries.

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