|Title:||Review of Allegations of Improper Maintenance at VA’s Houston National Cemetery|
|VA Office:||National Cemetery Administration (NCA)
|Report Author:||Office of Audits and Evaluations
The US Office of Special Counsel referred a whistleblower disclosure to VA on July 19, 2021. The whistleblower alleged that the Houston National Cemetery’s equipment, headstones, gravesites, and other cemetery features were not maintained as required. VA referred the disclosure to the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to assess these allegations. Although the Houston National Cemetery was generally well maintained, the OIG substantiated some of the whistleblower’s allegations. Four pieces of motorized equipment were not maintained in accordance with National Cemetery Administration standards because the cemetery staff stopped conducting routine preventive maintenance checks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some gravesites were also improperly maintained, and one water feature had a pump that was not working. None of the substantiated allegations at the Houston National Cemetery were pervasive issues, and cemetery staff were working to fix all of them. The OIG recommended that the cemetery director revise the equipment policy to ensure that routine activities, such as preventive maintenance checks, are resumed after natural disasters or emergencies and provide an action plan to repair the gravesites that the OIG team identified as improperly maintained. VA concurred with the recommendations and recognizes that maintenance of cemetery equipment and gravesites is essential to honor veterans and their eligible family members with lasting tributes commemorating their service and sacrifices. VA provided sufficient evidence to close the first recommendation as implemented and has taken action on the second, which will be closed when additional documentation has been received.