American veterans may soon find themselves presented with new options when it comes to choosing where they will be buried. Last year, Susan Svrluga of the Washington Post reported that the nation’s veterans might have been running out of time if they wished to find themselves buried amongst their fellow soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. In response, the Department of Veteran Affairs has launched a national expansion of the country’s cemetery system.
Last year alone, 125,000 veterans were buried in national cemeteries. To address these numbers, the National Cemetery Administration, an administration within the Department of Veteran Affairs responsible for the operation of 131 national cemeteries in 39 American jurisdictions, and the Department of the Army National Cemeteries, the agency responsible for Arlington National Cemetery, have engaged in historic expansion projects to make room for future veterans.
The Millennium Project, the government’s 27-acre expansion of Arlington, increases the cemetery’s availability into the 2050’s by creating an additional 27,000 graves. To put that in perspective, officials expected to run out of “niche space” by 2016 and in-ground burial space by 2025.
Despite this expansion, some officials are calling for more action. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., has been steadily advocating for expansion of the national cemetery system. Nevada, one of eleven states without national cemetery, is also home to 300,000 veterans. As a popular retirement state, Titus worries about the burial opportunities for Nevada veterans. “I think they should have that opportunity and not be a victim of where they live,” she said in an interview with Fox News. To address her concerns, Titus has introduced legislation that would require the Department of Veteran Affairs to build national cemeteries in all states lacking a national cemetery.
Complaints about the lack of burial space outside of Washington are not falling on deaf ears. In January 2014, the VA purchased 374 acres of land in southern Colorado and plans to begin burials by 2015. Expansion of existing cemeteries has also begun in Washington State. Florida is also set to gain two new national cemeteries to service the 247,000 veterans in the state who lack a national cemetery within 75 miles from their residence.