2012-02-02 / Local & State

Senator Wants Review Of VA Cemeteries In Pa.

By KEVIN BEGOS
ASSOCIATED PRESS

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Sen. Bob Casey wants the Department of Veterans Affairs to review all veterans’ cemeteries in Pennsylvania, after an audit found that some headstones were misplaced or missing at a cemetery in Philadelphia and five others around the country.

Casey, a Democrat, sent a letter to the VA on Saturday, asking for the investigation. The department has already decided to review all 131 cemeteries under its control, VA spokesman Josh Taylor said this week.

An internal audit of the Philadelphia National Cemetery found that 10 headstones were placed on the wrong plot and three headstones were missing from gravesites, Casey wrote. There are nine VA cemeteries in the state.

The VA’s audit began after employees found that a contractor at a cemetery in Texas had shifted 47 markers one space away from the correct gravesites.

The review found problems with 123 gravesites in six states, including eight cases in which people were buried in the wrong gravesite. The audit focused on just those cemeteries that underwent certain renovations.

“ VA apologizes to the families affected by these errors,’’ the department said in a statement. “We strive to operate the best cemetery system in the world and we take immediate corrective actions any time we identify any issue.’’

The other mistakes consisted primarily of headstones and markers that were incorrectly moved to the wrong gravesites during renovations, generally one grave space away from where they were supposed to be.

The department said it has contacted or will contact the affected families to apologize and to describe the corrections being made.

Casey said he feels the VA should be able to complete a review of the Pennsylvania cemeteries in several months.

“That’s a small price to pay, to ensure that these families have peace of mind,’’ Casey said.

The other cemeteries where problems were found are Dayton National Cemetery in Ohio, Santa Fe National Cemetery in New Mexico, Beverly National Cemetery in New Jersey and Loudon Park National Cemetery in Baltimore.

The problems at the VA cemeteries don’t appear to be near the scale of those discovered at Arlington National Cemetery, where an internal Army investigation uncovered at least 211 graves that were unmarked or misidentified.

Details of the VA review were first reported by The Washington Post.

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