USVAThis sad and distressing news broke over the Memorial Day weekend.

On top of veterans being put on an interminable waiting list at V.A. hospitals in violation of hospital policy, so interminable that some actually died before they could get an appointment to see a primary care physician, now comes news that bodies of deceased veterans were left to rot in a morgue for as long as a year and a half.

Section 578 of Public Law 106-65 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2000 requires that every eligible Veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, to include folding and presenting the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps. The law defines a military funeral honors detail as consisting of two or more uniformed military persons, with at least one being a member of the Veteran’s parent service of the armed forces. The Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for providing military funeral honors. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs)

Not only is the Obama administration’s DOD not providing military funeral honors to veterans in Los Angeles, some of them don’t even get a burial.

VA bodiesCBS Los Angeles reports, May 23, 2014, that there may have been as many as 60 veterans whose bodies were left at the L. A. County Morgue for the past year and a half.

Last Friday, 28 of those bodies were finally removed for burial to the Riverside National Cemetery. More could be moved as they are identified.

The morgue and the Veterans Administration blame each other for the “mistake.”

The morgue says the bodies were unclaimed and they don’t know how long the veterans were there. The Veterans Administration says they were never notified the bodies were processed and ready to be buried.

By email, a spokesperson for the LA County Morgue pointed the finger at the VA: “…there are about 60 decedents of probable veteran status that have awaited disposition for about a year as a result of a personnel change in the Veterans Affairs office and stringent identification/eligibility processes required by the VA.”

But VA spokesperson Cindy Van Bibber denied that the morgue had contacted them, insisting that “at no point” was the VA told about bodies piling up in the morgue: “We definitely weren’t contacted or we would have had a service for the veteran. There’s personnel changes every day but that certainly doesn’t take away from the service that we provide any veteran.”

Van Bibber said the process to get a proper burial for a veteran should take about three days, not a year and a half.

Former Marine Corporal Richard Burns told KCAL9 reporter Stacey Butler, “I think its incomprehensible. It’s kinda sad that these people don’t get the proper care that they deserve. Even after death.”

Every Wednesday morning, Burns goes to the Riverside National Cemetery and volunteers to lead memorial services for the unclaimed and often indigent vets. Often Burns and a handful of volunteers are the only people in attendance.

H/t FOTM’s swampygirl


Dr. Eowyn’s article first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds.

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