Sen. McCaskill wants answers to issues at Arlington National Cemetery

The Kansas City StarJuly 27, 2010 

Thousands of deceased military veterans may rest in improperly marked graves at Arlington National Cemetery, Sen. Claire McCaskill warned Monday.

Addressing what she called "heartbreaking incompetence," McCaskill on Monday told reporters in Columbia that she'll try to get answers to the growing cemetery scandal at a hearing later this week.

"At the very essence here, you have waste," she said. "There may be fraud. We don't know at this point."

An inspector general's report released in June detailed numerous problems at the cemetery, one of two national cemeteries run by the Department of the Army. In three sections of the cemetery, the report found, more than 200 graves appear to have been improperly marked.

But the number of burial site errors could be much higher because the Army report was limited to a small section of the cemetery, said McCaskill, a Democrat.

Mistakes continue to be made, the six-month study found. The errors included "the loss of accountability of remains, remains encountered in gravesites believed to be unoccupied, unmarked gravesites, discrepancies in burial documentation (and) improperly marked gravesites," the report said.

Former cemetery superintendent John Metzler and former deputy superintendent Thurman Higginbotham have been asked to testify before McCaskill's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on contracting oversight. Both men retired under pressure earlier this month.

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