Family sues agency over handling of burial
ALBANY The family of a veteran is suing the addiction and housing service where he died in 2011, accusing the agency of not notifying them after his death, resulting in him not being buried with proper rites and honors, according to a suit filed last month.
A statement from the addiction and housing service did not address the specific case at hand but said they value and respect each veteran they serve and must honor the veteran’s privacy wishes.
The case involves the May 15, 2011, passing of James Wagner while in the care of Loyola Recovery Foundation in Albany County.
Wagner’s family alleges in the suit that Loyola was aware that the plaintiffs were sisters of Wagner, but didn’t notify them of his death. Instead, they had to find out on their own 18 months later.
Wagner was buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery. The suit alleges that as a result of “the carelessness and negligence of the defendant” his family was deprived of having the proper religious services and military honors held.
Wagner, a Roman Catholic, was not buried in accordance with the tenets of Roman Catholicism, the suit alleges. The family also alleges in the suit that Wagner, a veteran, was not buried with proper military honors in a national cemetery.
“As a result of the careless and negligence of the defendant,” the suit reads, “plaintiffs will be forced to exhume decedent’s body from Albany Rural Cemetery so that he may be buried in a National Cemetery.”
Filing the suit were two sisters of Wagner, Sherree Sebast and Ruth Pintus, as well as Pintus’ husband, Ronald Pintus. All three are from Albany County. The suit was filed in state Supreme Court in Albany County.
Among the causes of action are negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The family is represented by attorney Keith Schockmel, who said the family was close, but as adults, not in constant contact. After going a period without hearing from Wagner, they started searching for him, finally learning of his passing Jan. 11, 2013.
“It wasn’t like they had to go search the world to find these people,” Schockmel said. “If they had looked in their own records, they would have found his sisters right here.”
Loyola Recovery Foundation provides crisis addiction and housing services to more than 3,000 veterans throughout upstate New York, according to a statement from the foundation.
Foundation staff, many of them veterans, respond to help homeless or addicted veterans.
The foundation’s statement didn’t comment on Wagner’s case specifically, saying they had yet to be served with the action.
“Loyola Recovery Foundation values and respects every veteran we serve,” the statement reads. “This respect extends to each veteran’s family, both immediate and military. In each case, we honor the directions veterans give us regarding their privacy, and we are bound by federal and state law with an affirmative duty to protect and uphold privacy.”