Today, the House of Representatives passed HR 1627, which included a bill sponsored by Veterans' Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA) that would end an unofficial system of "reserved" gravesites for VIPs at Arlington National Cemetery. HR 1627 passed unanimously.
"We must honor America's veterans at all levels and no one military servicemember or veteran should be placed above another. These provisions ensure that our nation's most revered cemetery will remain open to all eligible veterans- regardless of rank or position --while maintaining its current pristine and peaceful setting for the interment of our fallen servicemembers. HR 1627 will provide valuable tools to further aid in stewardship of some of the nation's most sacred ground."
"Arlington National Cemetery is our nation's most hallowed ground, and any veteran who has fought for our nation should have the opportunity to be laid to rest there without regard for rank or status," said Loebsack. "This legislation will end the shameful practice of backroom deals and off the book reservations to ensure that our nation's veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve."
Congressman Runyan and Congressman Loebsack's bill will end the unofficial reservation system at Arlington National Cemetery that is against Army policy and ensure that gravesites are provided to any qualified military veteran regardless of rank or status.
"This legislation is long overdue. It will finally prohibit, in law, the insider practice of allowing certain high-ranking military members and other VIPs to pre-select their gravesites. This practice was banned by Army policy in 1962 -nearly 50 years ago -yet cemetery administrators continued to arbitrarily allow some to skirt the rules. Burial at Arlington National Cemetery is a tremendous honor that depends on honorable service, not rank. It is obvious that greater accountability and transparency is needed, so we appreciate language in this bill that requires a full audit and a report back to Congress," said Shane Barker, Senior Legislative Associate for the Veterans of Foreign Wars at a May 3rd Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs hearing.