VA leaves Veteran's body in shower room; tries to cover it up

Posted at 5:04 PM, Dec 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-09 19:22:08-05

Bay Pines VA hospital staff left the body of a Veteran in a shower room for over nine hours, then tried to cover it up.

U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) released a statement in response to the report:

“I am deeply disturbed by the incident that occurred at the Bay Pines VA hospital, and even more distressed to learn that staff attempted to cover it up. The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability. Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the Veteran. The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better.” 

Bilirakis strongly supported House passage of the VA Accountability Act, legislation to make it easier for the VA Secretary to fire employees for misconduct or poor performance.

Bay Pines VA's Statement:

I can confirm the accuracy of most of what has been reported, but feel that the words “cover-up” or “hide” used by the Tampa Bay Times are highly inaccurate.  It is true that the general issue identified in the article did, in fact, take place (A deceased Veteran was prepared for transportation to the morgue; however, transport took more than nine hours to occur).  With that being said, our leadership team took swift and deliberate actions to investigate the incident and determine the cause as soon as the issue was reported. 

As reflected in the outcomes of our thorough internal reviews, it was found that some staff did not follow post mortem care procedures.  We view this finding unacceptable, and have taken appropriate action to mitigate reoccurrence in the future. Some of these actions include recommitment by all hospice staff to VA’s core values, education and training, and review of policy and procedures. Furthermore, hospice nursing professionals were required to provide a signature commitment of understanding and adherence to policy and practice related to post mortem care.  Nursing safety rounds were also initiated as a way to ensure ongoing education and oversight within the unit.  Appropriate personnel action was also taken, however, I am not able to provide details as these actions are considered confidential between the agency and employees involved. We feel that we have taken strong, appropriate and expeditious steps to strengthen and improve our existing systems and processes within the unit.

Again, this event was undesirable and unacceptable. While there is no specific VA policy or directive that provides guidance on the specific timeframe in which a decedent should be transported, it is our expectation that each Veteran is transported to their final resting place in the timely, respectful and honorable manner.  America’s heroes deserve nothing less.

Thank you,

Jason W. Dangel
Public Affairs Officer
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System