Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, joined the House Appropriations Committee in passing the Fiscal Year 2013 Veterans Administration and Military Construction Appropriations Act which includes language permitting the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) to purchase land from cemeteries in eight states, including Montana. These cemeteries would then be given National Cemetery status. There are no active national cemeteries in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho or North Dakota. American Veterans and their spouses are afforded the honor of being buried at national and state cemeteries.
"With four state cemeteries and one of the highest per-capita veterans populations in the country, it's time for Montana to get an active national cemetery," said Rehberg, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "We finally got the VA to acknowledge that using only population to measure cemetery need left rural veteran populations out of the equation, and we're making steady progress to ensure that Montana's worthy desire for a national cemetery of our own is honored."
Despite being home to one of the highest per capita veterans populations in the country, Montana does not currently have an active national cemetery. The Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery (YCVC), a state veterans cemetery, has consistently been passed over for national designation as a result of urban-centric standards that don't work in rural states like Montana. The VA requires a new national cemetery if a veteran population of 170,000 or more isn't served by a national cemetery within a 75-mile radius.
Rehberg has long advocated that, when evaluating whether a region is under-served by national cemeteries, the VA should consider factors beyond the number of vets in an area such as how far they must travel to the nearest national cemetery, the availability of public transportation, and the average cost of transport.
The language included in the Appropriations Committee passed bill specifically addresses rural cemeteries in eight underserved states. It allows the NCA to purchase land to be designated as National Cemeteries. The Administration plans to implement the initiative over multiple years, so not all eight states will immediately have their cemeteries acquired. The two states for FY13 haven't yet been identified by the NCA.