Legion, VA discuss NCA's goals, priorities

In early May, Jacob Gadd,The American Legion's assistant director for Program Management, met with Steve Muro, acting under secretary for Memorial Affairs, to discuss the National Cemetery Administration's goals and priorities. The NCA maintains 131 cemeteries, 3 million grave sites and 19,000 total acres; there were a total of 106,361 burials in NCA cemeteries in fiscal 2009. Of the NCA's 1,600 full-time employees, 71 percent are veterans.

There are five memorial service networks (MSNs) in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis and Oakland. NCA has cemeteries that serve 90 percent of veterans population within 75 miles from their home. New cemeteries under establishment include Melbourne/Daytona, Fla.; Buffalo/Rochester, NY; Tallahassee, Fla.; Omaha, Neb.; and the southern Colorado area. NCA is also working with adding columbariums with an urban initiative in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco to assist next of kin from traveling outside metropolitan cities to see their loved ones. NCA has a scheduling office in St. Louis that opened in 2008 and can assist with scheduling interment and funeral services, as well as establishing veteran eligibility in an average of seven minutes per call. In 2002, 49 percent of headstones and markers were set within 60 days of interment, and the average time to mark a grave was 69 days. In 2009, 95 percent of headstones and markers were set within 60 days of interment, and the average time to mark a grave was 24 days.

The American Legion's VA&R Division has a National Cemetery Affairs Subcommittee that meets annually during the Washington Conference to discuss priorities and current matters relative to the National Cemetery Administration. The American Legion has several resolutions on cemetery affairs supporting an increase of the Burial Plot Allowance and establishment of additional national and state cemeteries.

The NCA office will be working with The American Legion on several key areas:

Review of American Legion national resolutions and publications to ensure quality and accuracy of information.National Cemetery Administration staff will be invited to the Legion's national convention to update the VA&R Commission on NCA's new programs and initiatives. American Legion Economic programs such as hiring veterans to work with NCA, participating in national job fairs and hiring veteran owned small businesses for construction contracts for Minor Construction, Non-Recurring Maintenance and stimulus funds to service-disabled veteran-owned small businessesEncouraging American Legion volunteers to continue to assist at national and state cemeteries through Honor Guard details, buglers playing "Taps" and grounds keeping. Volunteers can enroll through VA Voluntary Service here. http://www.volunteer.va.gov/apps/VolunteerNow/Answering inquiries from veterans or next of kin who have any questions or concerns regarding cemetery programs and initiatives.

NCA's toll free number is (800) 827-1000.