Arlington National Cemetery

We’ve been reviewing a series of brochures that are provided by the government on end of life issues. As Memorial Day has just passed it is timely to review the requirements to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

First here are some interesting facts about Arlington:

• Almost 4 million people visit annually.

• It is not the largest National Cemetery, just the most famous. (The largest is Calverton in NY.)

• There are more than 290,000 veterans and their dependents buried on 624 acres of land.

• There are veterans buried at Arlington representing every war the United States has fought.

• The other 129 National Cemeteries are run by the Department of Veterans Affairs; Arlington however is administered by the Department of the Army.

• At the current rate of approximately 27 funerals daily, M-F, the cemetery should be able to accommodate ground burials up to the year 2060.

So, who can be buried at Arlington?

• Any active duty member of the Armed Forces (except those members serving on active duty for training only).

• Any veteran who is retired from active military service with the Armed Forces.

• Any veteran who is retired from the Reserves is eligible upon reaching age 60 and drawing retired pay; and 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
‣ Silver Star
‣ Purple Heart

• The President of the United States or any former President of the United States.

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

‣ 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.

The widow or widower of:

‣ a member of the Armed Forces who was lost or buried at sea or officially determined to be 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.

‣ a member of the Armed Forces who is interred in Arlington National Cemetery as part of a group burial.

• The surviving 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 in ANC. 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.

This brochure is full of helpful information and answers questions I wouldn’t have even thought to ask. It is 30 pages long, and professionally published. However, the same information is available on-line at as well. Just click on “Funeral Information.”

The High Cost of Employee Turnover in the End of Life Care Industry

I subscribe electronically to The Gallup Management Journal and their article “Turning Around Employee Turnover” really caught my eye. It’s a rather lengthy article but if you are in charge of hiring you must read it in full.

People who work in end of life career fields tend to have a high turnover. We assume it is from low pay, but there are many other reasons. The Gallup article references workers who quit jobs which paid $25,000-$35,000 annually; right in line with many end of life job salaries.

If you don’t read the entire article at least read these excerpts.

Most of the reasons employees cited for their turnover are things that managers can influence.

The top 5 predictors of turnover:

1. The immediate manager.
2. Poor fit to the job.
3. Coworkers not committed to quality.
4. Pay and benefits.
5. Connection to the organization or to senior management.

According to Gallup’s research, 9 of the 12 workplace elements consistently predict turnover across business units, regardless of an organization’s size.

1. Having clear expectations.
2. Having the materials and equipment to do the job right.
3. Having the opportunity to do what you do best every day.
4. The belief that someone at work cares.
5. The belief that someone encourages your development.
6. A sense that your opinions count.
7. The mission or purpose of the company making you feel your job is important.
8. A belief that your coworkers are committed to quality, and
9. Having opportunities to learn and grow at work.

The other three elements, recognition, progress discussions (performance evaluations), and the presence of a best friend at work, add significant value and turnover is much less likely.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the voluntary turnover rate is 23.4%. If replacing an employee costs a business one-half to five time that employee’s annual salary then if 25% of your workforce leaves, and their average pay is $35,000, your 100 person company may pay between $438,000 and $4 million a year to replace the 25 employee who left.


No Licensure for Colorado Funeral Directors

House Bill 08-1123, regarding licensure and registration for funeral directors died in the Colorado Senate this legislative session.

For 7 years the Colorado Funeral Directors Association with varied levels of support and assistance from funeral home owners and industry leaders has introduced a bill on registration and/or licensure of funeral service personnel. Although Colorado has a lot of laws regarding funeral service; burial, cremation, embalming, and standards of practice, what we haven’t had since 1982 is licensure or registration of those people responsible for knowing and carrying out the laws.

It is important to note the bills introduced through the years had a licensure component simply for those who had chosen (or would choose in the future) to voluntarily go to mortuary school and pass their National Board Exam; all others in the industry would simply have registered with the State.

So, after 7 years of trying to bring individual accountability why did the bills continue to fail year after year? Here are some of the arguments I heard from the lawmakers themselves through the years. These are all quotes I heard with my own ears; some of them are accurate statements, others are just plain silly.

• “There was licensure in Noble, Georgia and that didn’t stop crematory operators from breaking the law.”

• “Colorado has not made national news with any horror stories on our funeral industry.”

• “The funeral bill would raise the cost of funerals for consumers.”

• “I don’t want to allow the industry to be taken from no regulation to licensure in one year.”

• “Funeral directors in rural Colorado won’t be able to take vacations.”

• “We already have pre-need and insurance laws in Colorado.”

• “We already have Federal OSHA standards to regulate the embalming room, and the Federal Trade Commission, FTC Rule to regulate pricing.”

• “The Mortuary Science Code was updated in 2004, that’s good enough.”

• “This bill would over-regulate an industry that has done a fine job regulating itself since 1982.”

• “There aren’t enough consumer complaints.”

• “This bill would restrict competition in the industry.”

Having entered the funeral business in 1988, six years after the funeral licensing laws expired; I have never worked with a license in Colorado. After I graduated from Mortuary School in 1991, I earned my voluntary Mortuary Science Practitioner (MSP) certification through the Colorado Funeral Service Board by passing my National Board Exam and serving a voluntary one year internship under a registered MSP.

At the end of the day the passage of this bill wouldn’t have done anything for me personally other than perhaps provided an additional layer of respect by my peers outside of Colorado. Despite not having a license, I have contributed to the funeral industry on a national level in a variety of ways.

At the end of day the passage of this bill would have formalized a place for consumers to register their complaints with the State, however they can still file law-suits, contact the media, and tell all of their friends, “Don’t use ABC Funeral Home.”

At the end of day, the graduates of the Mortuary Science Program at Arapahoe Community College in Colorado can still pursue a license in 49 other states.

I am privileged to have worked for 20 years with some of the most professional people I know, the funeral directors and embalmers in Colorado.