Part 553 of Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations establishes regulations for Arlington National Cemetery, including eligibility for interment (ground burial) and inurnment. Due to limited space, the criteria for ground burial eligibility are more restrictive than at other national cemeteries, as well as more restrictive than for inurnment in the columbarium.
The persons specified below are eligible for ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery, unless otherwise prohibited. The last period of active duty of former members of the armed forces must have ended honorably. Interment may be of casketed or cremated remains.
Any active-duty member of the armed forces (except those members serving on active duty for training only).
Any veteran who is retired and eligible for retirement pay from service in the armed forces (including service members retired from a reserve component who served a period of active duty (other than for training)).
Any former member of the armed forces separated honorably prior to October 1, 1949, for medical reasons and who was rated at 30% or greater disabled effective on the day of discharge.
Any former member of the armed forces who has been awarded one of the following decorations:
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Any former member of the armed forces who served on active duty (other than for training) and who held any of the following positions:
An elective office of the U.S. Government (such as a term in Congress).
Office of the Chief Justice of the United States or of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
An office listed, at the time the person held the position, in 5 USC 5312 or 5313 (Levels I and II of the Executive Schedule).
The chief of a mission who was at any time during his/her tenure classified in Class I under the provisions of Section 411, Act of 13 August 1946, 60 Stat. 1002, as amended (22 USC 866) or as listed in State Department memorandum dated March 21, 1988.
Any former prisoner of war who, while a prisoner of war, served honorably in the active military, naval, or air service, whose last period of military, naval or air service terminated honorably and who died on or after November 30, 1993.
The spouse, widow or widower, minor child, or permanently dependent child, and certain unmarried adult children of any of the above eligible veterans.
Respectful silence is requested at Arlington.
The widow or widower of:
a member of the armed forces who was lost or buried at sea or fell out of a plane or officially determined to be permanently absent with a status of either missing or missing in action.
a member of the armed forces who is interred in a US military cemetery overseas that is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
The spouse, minor child, or permanently dependent child of any person already buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The parents of a minor child, or permanently dependent child whose remains, based on the eligibility of a parent, are already buried at Arlington. A spouse divorced from the primary eligible, or widowed and remarried, is not eligible for interment.
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 already buried and is the primary eligible.
Inurnment criteria for columbarium
Due at least partly to the lack of space at the cemetery for ground burial, standards for inurnment (burial of cremated remains) in the columbarium are currently much less restrictive than for ground burial at the Cemetery. In general, any former member of the armed forces who served on active duty (other than for training) and whose last service terminated honorably is eligible for inurnment. Eligibility for inurnment is described fully in 32 C.F.R. § 553.15a.
Prohibitions against interment or memorialization
Congress has from time to time created prohibited categories of persons that, even if otherwise eligible for burial, lose that eligibility. One such prohibition is against certain persons who are convicted of committing certain state or federal capital crimes, as defined in 38 U.S. Code § 2411. Capital crime is a specifically defined term in the statute, and for state offenses can include offenses that are eligible for a life sentence (with or without parole). The reasoning for this provision originally was to prevent Timothy McVeigh from being eligible at Arlington National Cemetery, but it has since been amended to prevent others.
Also prohibited under the same statute are those determined, with clear and convincing evidence, to have avoided such conviction by death or flight.