Old soldiers — and young ones, too — do die, but if there’s a flu pandemic with a lot of absenteeism in the workforce, the VA has plans to let them just fade away. Or something like that.
Families of veterans who die during a bird flu outbreak shouldn’t count on burying their loved ones in any of the 120 national cemeteries. The Department of Veterans Affairs foresees closing the military graveyards in a pandemic because of staffing problems.
The VA buries more than 250 veterans and eligible family members a day — about 93,000 a year. Itoperates cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico.
Those burials could stop or be put on hold during a pandemic, presumably even as the tally of dead surges, according to a VA plan that lays out how it will cope with an influenza outbreak. The government is preparing for a worst-case scenario of nearly 2 million deaths in the United States in a pandemic. (AP via USAToday)
“Putting on hold” presumably means “rescheduled.” A bit of a hardship for the family, but no problem for the deceased. They’re on permanent hold (but of course our clergy will be quick to tell us their call is still important to — to whom? Nevermind.)
The VA acknowledges cemeteries will have to plan ways of allocating staff and plots for “significant numbers of burials if closure and rescheduling is not an adequate response,” according to the plan.
“If there’s truly a catastrophic kind of thing — whether it be a bird flu pandemic or a massive, terrorist-instigated attack that would claim tens or hundreds of thousands of lives — a lot of that frankly involves bulldozers,” said Mike Duggan, the American Legion’s deputy director for national security and a Vietnam veteran.
Bulldozers? Why don’t they just borrow some forklifts from the VA hospitals? With budget cuts, they’re often little more than warehouses for soldiers who no longer serve a purpose for the Department of Defense. And they can always restock.