Massachusetts Veteran Found Dead in VA Staircase After Month-Long Search

The decayed body of a veteran was located just 60 feet from his bedroom in an emergency stairwell of a Massachusetts VA after he had been missing for a month.

Veteran Timothy White, 62, entered the Bedford Veterans Quarters in Bedford, Massachusetts, in January of 2020 after being homeless. On May 13 of 2020, White went missing from his single-tenant bedroom and was not discovered until June 12 when another resident found White on a rarely used stairwell.

After conducting an investigation into the death of White, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “found that Mr. White’s disappearance did not receive the attention it deserved from VA, an agency that is required by federal law to provide for the protection of all persons on its property.” 

The report found that staff at the facility, Bedford Police, and VA authorities all failed to check the hallway near White’s bedroom. One officer informed the OIG “that had VA police been patrolling Building 5 at the time of his disappearance, he believed they would have ‘absolutely’ seen Mr. White, and he would have been located significantly sooner.”

The Associated Press

Clarence Shields, an Army veteran, pickets with a small group of activists from the American Federation of Government Employees local 424 and the National Association of Government Employees local R3-19 during the coronavirus pandemic, outside the Baltimore VA Medical Center, Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Baltimore. The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling with shortages of workers at its health care facilities as it cares for veterans infected with the novel coronavirus. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The report went on to declare the collective effort, which failed to locate the veteran, was the culmination of a number of mismanaged and negligent decision-making:

Poor decision-making, misinformation, and lack of oversight also prevented anyone at VA from encountering Mr. White during the month after he was reported missing through routine patrols or cleaning of the emergency exit stairwell in which his body was found.

According to the Boston Globe, VA Police Chief Shawn Kelley waited close to two weeks to respond to the Bedford Police Department’s request to search for White with the assistance of police dogs. It was also discovered that Kelley ordered an end to daily patrols conducted by VA police officers in February of 2020. Amidst the OIG investigation, VA Police Chief Shawn Kelly resigned due to medical concerns a source told the Boston Globe

FILE - In this April 2, 2015, file photo, a visitor leaves the Sacramento Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The number of veterans seeking health care but ending up on waiting lists of one month or more is 50 percent higher now than it was a year ago when a scandal over false records and long wait times wracked the Department of Veterans Affairs, The New York Times reported Saturday, June 20, 2015, online ahead of its Sunday editions. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

In this April 2, 2015, file photo, a visitor leaves the Sacramento Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The number of veterans seeking health care but ending up on waiting lists of one month or more is 50 percent higher now than it was a year ago when a scandal over false records and long wait times wracked the Department of Veterans Affairs, The New York Times reported Saturday, June 20, 2015, online ahead of its Sunday editions. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

The OIG investigation came after a criminal investigation was conducted by the Massachusetts Middlesex District Attorney’s Office last December. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan stated that the investigation could not determine the cause of White’s death as his body reached an advanced stage of decay:

“The review found that given the delay in discovering Mr. White’s body in the stairwell, the Medical Examiner was not able to determine whether he died of natural causes where he was found, or if he was injured, or incapacitated for a period of time before his death, either from dehydration or lack of medical treatment,” Ryan said in a prepared statement.

The Middlesex district attorney did not bring charges against anyone, though Ryan did make clear that she found the handling of the search to be a failure. 

Source

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