In a tragic story that underscores the ongoing difficulties plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a report was released last week detailing the sad demise of Timothy White, whose decaying body was found in an emergency stairwell at a federal facility back in June of last year, as the New York Post reports.
According to the outlet, the decomposing corpse of the 62-year-old Army veteran was discovered in a rarely-used stairwell at the Bedford Veterans Quarters in Massachusetts after the man had been missing for roughly a month.
White’s disappearance from a single occupancy room at the privately-operated, but VA-owned facility was first reported on May 13 of last year, but his body was not found until almost a full month later, when it was discovered that he had never even left the premises.
According to the Post, White did not possess a cell phone or a vehicle, and had been homeless before moving into the facility, and he was known as someone who did not make a practice of leaving the building with any great frequency.
Indeed, White was discovered wearing the same garments he had on when last spotted on the campus a month prior, and his body was found approximately 20 yards from his single-occupancy unit in an emergency exit stairwell that was, obviously, rarely accessed by anyone.
Boston NPR affiliate WBUR noted that the federal report addressing the incident blames confusion on the part of facility staffers was largely to blame for the failure to discover White’s body for such a lengthy period of time.
The report found that while there was no evidence of foul play or injury revealed in the subsequent probe of White’s death, investigators determined that the stairwell itself was never even searched, because VA police offers did not think that part of the building was included in their jurisdiction, given its operation by a private entity.
In summarizing the series of failures that led White’s body to languish in the stairwell for weeks, the federal report declared, “Mr. White’s disappearance did not receive the attention it deserved from [the] VA, an agency that is required by federal law to provide for the protection of all persons on its property.”
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), in commenting on the conclusion of the probe into White’s death for which he personally pushed, aptly summarized the shameful situation last week, saying, “Tim White deserved better from the country than dying alone in a stairwell.”