by Micah J. Fleck
Veteran Affairs is just another bad government body with incoherent, inefficient methods of doing things. Nowhere is that more clear than in this most recent case, where Chicago’s Edward Hines Jr. VA hospital was found mishandling cadavers.
The Department of Veterans Affairs can’t seem to keep up with the burden of their heavy workload. They’ve taken flack for administrative corruption, long wait times, and even negligent responses to suicidal soldiers seeking assistance.
The latest scandal to break paints another bleak picture. A whistle-blower at an Illinois VA hospital has leaked news that bodies of dead veterans have been left unclaimed in the morgue for up to two months.
The level of decay was so pronounced that at least one of the bodies had liquefied. When the staff tried to remove it, the body-bag burst.
Kirk has taken his concerns to VA Secretary Bob McDonald. Wirtjes has been under scrutiny before. The Office of Special Counsel found Wirtjes had devised a secret wait list that was exposed in 2014.
The paper trail for this debacle seems even more damning.
“[There is] an invoice for an unclaimed veteran that has been here for over 30 days. Please approve for burial at Abraham Lincoln,” a clerk wrote to Wirtjes.
“Approval of unclaimed Vet D?? Status?” He wrote again several days later.
When no response came, he asked more bluntly:“Any further on my poor unclaimed? I WILL file a police report, but I hate doing that…”
Emails from June 14, 2016 and Aug. 29, 2016 state that two different veterans languished in the morgue for a month or more.
A manager at the hospital finally said he would “try to figure it out with the funeral home. … At least he would be laid to rest.”
“I have not heard anything as to the approval for funeral home pick up. It will be a month tomorrow,” the clerk responded.
The spokesman for the hospital, Rick Fox, disputed the allegations: “We take whistle-blower allegations very seriously and absolutely agree that all of our veterans deserve dignity and respect, in life and in death. While our investigation into this matter is still ongoing, we have found allegations related to consistent problems with dignified and timely burials to be unsubstantiated. However, we have taken this opportunity to review our policies and procedures and are currently working to improve them.”
Senator Kirk has stated he will not rest until he has passed a new regulation forcing future VAs to better handle corpses.