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J. G. Holloway, Col., USAR (ret.), Douglas, Ariz., statement of.
Edward A. Lieberman, department service officer-
Harrisburg, Pa., statement submitted by Lt. Col. William B.
Hon. William W. Scranton, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Pennsylvania, statement of...
veteran organizations of the State of Michigan, telegram from..---
Texas, letter from..
Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of California, letter and
resolutions submitted by Alva J. Fleming, acting adjutant.-
resolution submitted by Edward A. Allen, commander.
H. Davis, commander -
John T. Radko, commander.
tion submitted by W. I. Wooddell, department adjutant..
Miss., letter from James E. Nichols, quartermaster.-
Robert K. Lix, post adjutant.--
NATIONAL CEMETERY POLICY
MONDAY, MARCH 5, 1962
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:50 a.m., in the committee room, 1324 New House Office Building, Hon. J. T. Rutherford (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. The Subcommittee on National Parks will be in order. The committee print of data on national cemeteries has been prepared by the subcommittee staff through the authority of the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Aspinall. A copy is before each member. Those requiring additional copies can obtain them through the clerk.
I recommend the Committee Print No. 15 as well as the study made by the Department of the Army, December 15, 1961, on the national cemeteries.
At this time I would like to make an opening statement to properly place the issue, the subject, and problem before the subcommittee.
The purpose of these hearings is to develop and determine a national policy on the privilege of veterans to obtain, and the corresponding obligation of the Government to furnish, an opportunity for burial in a national cemetery.
Under existing law (Public Law 86–260; 73 Stat. 547), all personnel (and certain classes of dependents) whose last separation from the services, whether in peace or in war, is under honorable conditions are eligible for burial in a national cemetery. On the other hand, existing law specifically states that eligibility is restricted to availability of a grave site. Thus the root of the present difficulty is the conflict between eligibility and availability. À national policy to resolve this problem has now become essential.
There are currently before the committee 52 bills to provide for the creation of new cemeteries or the expansion of present national cemeteries. In the absence of a national policy, it is difficult, if not impossible, to consider these bills on their respective merits.
The subcommittee, therefore, intends to restrict these hearings to testimony bearing on the broad aspect of the problem and will not receive oral testimony either for or against specific bills. The subcommittee has already announced, moreover, that it would require advance written copies of proposed statements. This is in accord with paragraph 25(f) of rule XI of the rules of the House. In accordance with the same rule, witnesses are expected to give a brief
oral summary of their statements instead of reading the statements themselves.
It is hoped that those that testify will recognize these already announced restrictions and will confine their testimony to the general situation. It is further hoped that testimony received will be directed toward a sound and constructive solution of this difficult and delicate problem.
A short discussion of the difficulties involved may serve to bring into focus some, if not all, of the salient problems involved.
First and foremost, the entire problem of national cemetery capacity, as opposed to eligible population, has been largely ignored during the last 90 years. During this period conditions of eligibility have been regularly expanded, while at the same time provision of burial spaces, that is, addition to present cemeteries or acquisition of additional cemeteries, has not kept pace.
In illustration, during the years 1862–99, 81 national cemeteries were established to provide for the burial of those who died either on active service or as a result of past honorable service. During this period the privilege of burial in a national cemetery was largely restricted to personnel dying on active duty or “honorably discharged soldiers, sailors, and marines who served during the late war" (i.e., the War Between the States).
Commencing with 1890, however, either by law or by administrative action later confirmed by act of Congress, eligibility for burial in national cemeteries has been steadily expanded in such a manner as to include spouses, widows, widowers, and minor children, not only of wartime veterans but also veterans of the peacetime establishment and their dependents. On the other hand, since 1890 to date, only 17 new national cemeteries have been opened. Since 1890 the population of eligible veterans has increased from 1,341,000 to 22,500,000 excluding eligibles from the peacetime establishment. Thus, based on the veteran population alone, we are confronted with a problem of very great magnitude.
Projections of future veterans deaths furnished the subcommittee indicate that at least 2.6 to 2.7 million deaths will occur between now and 1972. Based on past experience the demands for dependents will eventually be nearly as great.
Currently, the ratio of dependents' burials is as 3 dependents to 8 veterans. However, women live longer than men and the peak of dependents' burials will be about 8 years later than the peak of veterans' deaths. For example, there are over twice as many living widows of Spanish American War veterans as there are living veterans of that war. It is probably that eventually there will be close to one eligible dependent for each eligible veteran.
By 1995 the annual death rate of these two groups will closely approach 1 million and will stay near the figure for some years thereafter.
It is obvious that our present system cannot accommodate more than a very minor proportion of these expected deaths even by resorting to multiple burials in one grave site, a practice that by July of this year will be in effect in all national cemeteries. Nor can it do so even if, which is most unlikely, the present low proportion of requests, currently about 15 percent, continues to obtain in the future. This per
centage is, in fact, a manifestation of the haphazard development of our national cemeteries. Of 100 veterans dying within 50 miles of a national cemetery, approximately 40 are buried therein.
In the San Diego, Calif. area in 1961, 75 percent of the veterans dying within 50 miles of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery were buried there. This cemetery opened in 1934 and will be filled by 1966.
Long Island National Cemetery, serving New York, opened in 1936 and will be closed in 1976. Fort Sam Houston, opened in 1931, will be closed in 1979.
In contrast, 14 of the 21 national cemeteries operated by the Army expected to be open in the year 2000 were opened in the period 1862–69. Only two national cemeteries operated by the National Park Service will remain open after the year 2000. One of these was established in the 1862–69 period.
Thus proximity of national cemeteries to centers of veteran population seems to be the controlling factor in relation to requests for burial in national cemeteries.
So much for the magnitude of the problem. The question is to find a fair and equitable policy. It must be remembered that land that is suitable for national cemeteries readily accessible to large centers of population is equally desirable for many other human needs. The cost af acquiring such land in such locations is a factor which cannot be ignored. On the other hand, particularly among the older veterans, the privilege of being buried in a national cemetery is a benefit of considerable importance. The feeling within this group that it is a great privilege and honor is very strong and the possibility of the abrogation of this privilege is a source of real concern.
The vast majority of our veteran population consists of comparatively young men. Death to them is still something remote, something that happens to the other fellow. To them, the privilege of burial in a national cemetery may well, at present, seem relatively unimportant. It is probable that the passage of time will increase their interest and their concern. Remembrance by the Government one has served is always gratifying.
In addition, the privilege is one of considerable financial significance. Figures made available to the subcommittee show that this may vary from a minimum of approximately $100 to a maximum of $2,329. To subject the bulk of our veteran population to this additional expense merely on the grounds of survival is hardly equitable. The general policy regarding veterans in this country has been to treat all as equally as possible.
Let me assure you that the subcommitee is well aware of all the aspects of this problem. In its search for a solution, the committee has solicited the cooperation of the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. To both of these gentlemen the problem is of vital concern.
The committee hopes that you who appear as witnesses will, insofar as possible, furnish the committee with constructive advice.
This concludes the opening statement of the chairman of the subcommittee and at this particular time I would like to yield to the ranking minority member of this subcommittee for any opening statement he desires to make.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Saylor.
First I would like to express, on behalf of myself and the people on my side of the aisle, our appreciation to you and to the chairman of the full committee for having arranged a full week of hearings on this matter which is of grave importance, not only to this committee, but to several of the other standing committees of the House and to the veterans of our country.
One of the things that has been of outstanding importance to me is the urgent need that we must have a national cemetery such as we now have at Arlington and the pressing demands that that cemetery is having placed upon it, together with the needs in the other sections of the country indicate, that while many of the 221/2 millions of people who are entitled to burial in our national cemeteries at the present time do not consider this as an immediate problem, we who have charge of it realize that as time goes on the policies that will have been set as a result of this hearing will determine the future of national cemeteries in this country.
For that reason I am deeply interested in it and indebted to you and I certainly hope those who appear here as witnesses will realize the problems we have and give us their best thinking in an effort to arrive at an equitable solution.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair will now start the rollcail of witnesses. Those first to appear are the Members of Congress, which is our custom and practice. The first witness is the Honorable James E. Van Zandt of the 20th District of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Van Zandt.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES E. VAN ZANDT, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Mr. VAN ZANDT. Thank you.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. I might say this, while the gentleman prepares to speak: I have known Mr. Van Zandt since prior to my arrival here in Congress. He was a past commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the only man to hold that title for three consecutive terms. I served as department commander for the Department of Texas for the Veterans of Foreign Wars some years ago. The first time I met Mr. Van Zandt he was in uniform in Fort Worth, Tex., addressing the convention there.
He is also a very valuable member of the House Armed Services Committee, and I am sure that he has a great interest in the problem this subcommittee faces.
Mr. Van Zandt.
Mr. ASPINALL. If you will yield to me, Mr. Chairman, he is also the ranking House member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. With all of these responsibilities which he has, I know he is going to be able to give us a solution to this very exacting problem. Anyhow, Jim, I am glad to see you before the committee.