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Submission For The Record of Reserve Officers Association of the United States, and Reserve Enlisted Association of the United States

INTRODUCTION–Reserves are part of the Total Force

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, the Reserve Officers Association (ROA) and the Reserve Enlisted Association (REA) would like to thank the subcommittee for the opportunity to submit testimony. ROA and REA applaud the ongoing efforts by Congress to address issues facing veterans and serving members such as veteran status, mental health assessments, tax exemptions, and claims processing.

Though contingency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are expected to drawdown currently there are still high levels of mobilizations and deployments, and many of these outstanding citizen soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen have put their civilian careers on hold while they serve their country in harm’s way.  As we have learned, they share the same risks and their counterparts in the Active Components on the battlefield.  Recently we passed the 800,000th mark for the number of Reserve and Guard service members who have been activated since post-9/11. More than 275,000 have been mobilized two or more times.  While the United States is creating a new generation of combat veterans that come from its Reserve Components (RC), Arlington policies remain pre-September 11, 2001.  We can’t ignore the benefits that they are entitled or overlook their selfless service to their country

DISCUSSION–not all Reserve warriors are entitled to Arlington Burials

ROA and REA have long supported the concept of “total force.”  National Guard and Reserve members deserve parity in benefits as they both backfill for, and serve alongside members of the Active component.  With the Nation at war in two theaters, the Reserve Component has played a major role in the success of the volunteer armed forces, with Reserve Component members who been killed in the line of duty being honored with burial eligibility at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).   ROA maintains that this eligibility criteria needs to be expanded.

Given that over 800,000 National Guard and Reserve service members have answered their nations call to serve on active duty for both home land defense and overseas contingency operations, it is ironic that by returning to Selective Reserve status, they are no longer eligible for burial at ANC unless they have been decorated with a Purple Heart, a Medal of Valor, a Silver Star or higher.

Qualifying for retirement with 20 years of satisfactory federal service is not enough either.  National Guard and Reserve members must be retired in pay to be burial eligible.

ROA supports in-ground burial eligibility for:

  • Any Reserve Component member who has served on active duty honorably in a combat or hazardous duty zone, but who has not been killed in the line of duty.
  • National Guard and Reservists who are killed in the line of duty whether on Active Duty for Training (ADT), Active Duty for Special Work (ADSW) for less than 30 days, or Individual Duty Training (IDT).
  • Deceased gray-area retirees, if entitled to retirement pay under Title 10.
  • Spouses, surviving spouses, or dependent children of any group of eligible National Guard and Reserve members.

Codifying the Rules for Interment in Arlington National Cemetery

In regard to the rules for interment in ANC, ROA continues to support the codification of all the rules governing access to ANC.  ROA strongly recommends that the Committee take up the issue of the overall codification of the rules governing ANC burial at their earliest opportunity

Background

Currently, “gray-area” retirees, who have retired from the National Guard or Reserve but are under the age of 60, as well as current Guard and Reserve service members who die while conducting their training periods, are ineligible for burial at ANC, while their active duty counterparts are eligible under similar circumstances.

The duties of the National Guard and Reserve, which include pilots, combat warriors, elite Special Forces, military police and numerous other vital MOS roles, are assuming risks in training for their missions.  This training is performed outside of active duty.

Under Army regulations, 32 CRF 553.15, the persons specified below, whose last period of active duty in the Armed Forces ended honorably, are eligible for in-ground burial at Arlington National Cemetery:

  1. Any active duty member of the Armed Forces, except those servicing on active duty for training purposes only.
  2. Any veteran retired from active military service with the Armed Forces.
  3. Any veteran who is retired from the Reserves is eligible upon reaching the age of 60 and who is drawing retired pay, and who served a period of active duty (other than for training).
  4. Any former member of the Armed Forces separated honorably prior to October 1, 1949, for medical reasons with a 30 percent or greater disability rating effect on the day of discharge.
  5. Any former member of the Armed Forces awarded one of the following decorations: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross (Air Force Cross or Navy Cross), Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, or Purple Heart.
  6. The current and any former President of the United States.
  7. Any former member of the Armed Forces who served on active duty (other than for training purposes) and held any of the following positions: an elective offices of the U.S. Government, Office of the Chief Justice of the United States or an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, an office listed, at the time the individual held the position, in 5 USC 5312 or 5313 (Levels I and II of the Executive Schedule), or the chief of a mission who at the time during his or her tenure was classified in Class I under the provision of Section 411, Act of 13 August 1946, 60 Stat. 1002, as amended (22 USC 866) or as listed in the State Department memorandum dated March 21, 1988.
  8. Any former prisoner of war (POW) who, while a POW, served honorably in the active military, naval or air service, whose last period of service terminated honorably and who died on or after November 30, 1993.
  9. The spouse, widow or widower, minor children, permanently dependent children, and certain unmarried adult children of any above eligible veterans.
  10. The widow or widower of: a member of the Armed Forces lost or buried at sea, or officially determined missing in action, a member of the Armed Forces buried in a U.S. military cemetery overseas maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, or a member of the Armed Forces interred in Arlington National Cemetery as part of a group burial.
  11. The parents of a minor child, or permanently dependent child whose remains, based on the eligibility of a parent, are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  A spouse divorced from the primary eligible, or widowed and remarried, is not eligible for interment.
  12. The surviving spouse, minor children, and permanently depended children of any eligible veteran buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
  13. Provided certain conditions are met, a former member of the Armed Forces may be buried in the same grave with a close relative who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery and who is primary eligible.

Conclusion

The rules for interment at Arlington National Cemetery were intended to allocate remaining burial capacity in the cemetery to honor those who have contributed to the national security of the United States.  Yet, recently acquired land has removed the urgency of an allocation that excludes the National Guard and Reserve members.  In a “total force,” care must be taken to recognize the contributions of the National Guard and Reserve members who are performing the same missions as their counterparts.  They should be allowed the same eligibility at the time of their death.

The Reserve Officers Association and Reserve Enlisted Association again thank the subcommittee for holding a hearing on this subject, and permitting ROA and REA to submit a statement for the record.