The National Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003 authorizes VA to establish new National Cemeteries in areas where the veteran populations exceeded the threshold mark of 170,000 and had inadequate burial space in nearby national cemeteries.
VA's National Cemetery Administration (NCA) will open six new cemeteries by 2009. That is in addition to six opened between 2001-2007. These six already opened under the Veterans Millennium Healthcare Act of 1999 where; 1. Fort Sill National Cemetery near Oklahoma City opened for interments in 2001. 2. The National Cemetery of the Alleghenies near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 3. The Great Lakes National Cemetery near Detroit opened in 2005. 4. The Georgia National Cemetery in Canton. 5. The Sacramento Valley VA National Cemetery in Dixon, California. 6. The South Florida VA National Cemetery near Miami opened in 2007.
Here is an update on the six latest cemeteries, which are expected to open for burials in either 2008 or 2009.
1. Bakersfield, California; NCA acquired a 500 acre tract just east of Bakersfield in September 2007. Construction of the first burial section is to be opened in the last quarter of 2008.
2. Birmingham, Alabama; NCA purchased a 495 acre tract in Montevallo, Alabama, some 25 miles south of Birmingham for $8 million in July of 2007. Construction of he first burial section - some 45 acres that will provide burials for up to 10 years - is to be completed this summer and opened in the last quarter of 2008.
3. Columbia/Greenville, South Carolina; NCA selected a 600 acre tract within Fort Jackson in the city of Columbia in 2006. Previously owned by the Department of the Army, the land was transferred to VA at no cost. Construction of the first burial section is to be completed this summer and opened in the last quarter of 2008.
4. Jacksonville, Florida; NCA selected a 586 acre site in Duval County near Jacksonville International Airport in October 2006 and acquired the land last year. Construction of the first burial section is to be completed this summer and opened in the last quarter of 2008.
5. Southeastern Pennsylvania; NCA selected a 200 acre tract at Dolington in southern Bucks County in February 2006. Construction of the first burial section is to begin in early 2009 and opened sometime in the first quarter of 2009.
6. Sarasota County, Florida; NCA purchased a 295 acre site formerly part of Hawkins Ranch for $15 million in 2007. Construction of the first burial section is to be completed late this year and opened in the last quarter of 2008.
Facts on Burial in a VA National Cemetery;
Gravesites at VA national cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance. But VA encourages families of veterans who want to be buried in a VA national cemetery to discuss options and gather pertinent documents. Here are some other considerations when contemplating burial in a VA national cemetery.
* All U.S. veterans who met minimum active-duty service requirements and received other-than-dishonorable discharges are eligible.
* Spouses and children of eligible veterans may be eligible for burial, even if they die before the veteran.
* Reservists who die while on active duty or during training or qualify for retired pay also are eligible.
* VA provides - at no expense to the family - a gravesite, a headstone, or marker, a presidential memorial certificate, a U. S. flag, perpetual care of the gravesite and the opening and closing of the grave.
* Families pay for the services provided by funeral directors and other related costs.
* Formal funeral services are not held at national cemeteries, but final commital services are performed in "committal shelters" away from the gravesite. Burials take place following the committal service.
* National cemeteries do not usually conduct burials on weekends or federal holidays.
For further information, including how to establish burial eligibility, contact the nearest VA Regional Office at 1-800-827-1000 or access www.va.gov