Veterans will continue to encounter increasingly significant difficulty in procuring burial sites at national and private cemeteries unless changes are made, according to the government’s chief watchdog agency. In a report to Congress issued last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) cited the National Cemetery System’s own statistics that showed more than 2.1 million veterans – 10 percent of the overall U.S. veteran population – “did not have reasonable access to burial options” as of Sept. 30, 2013, when that fiscal year ended. Access to burials did improve to about 92 percent by 2018, GAO reported. Still, the cemetery system’s plans for cemetery expansion likely would take five years longer to implement than planned, GAO reported. The costs for the new construction would increase accordingly.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, the cemetery system’s parent agency, should update its cost-estimating procedures to incorporate GAO’s best practices, the report stated.