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Wife files claim against Little Rock VA after it wrongfully cremated her husband

A veteran's wife is blaming the Little Rock VA Hospital for cremating her husband against his wishes. (Courtesy Jackie Hennings)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KATV) - A veteran's wife is blaming the Little Rock VA Hospital for cremating her husband against his wishes.

An attorney filed a claim against the VA for negligence.

One day before the funeral visitation, Jackie Hennings received the shocking call that her husband, Teddy, had been cremated. She said it was the result of negligence after the VA mislabeled two bodies, one of them being her husband.

"I was really very distraught because he did not want to be cremated and he expressed that to me as well as other family members,” said Hennings.

Teddy was a Navy veteran, who spent his last days at the Little Rock VA Hospital. It was late September when Jackie began planning her husband’s funeral. It was also one day before the visitation that she found out he had been cremated against his and her families' wishes.

"It's a situation of gross negligence ... it's really devastating on the family because, first of all, cremation is almost taboo in the African-American community ... a funeral is a process where a family can sort of say their last goodbyes to their loved ones,” said attorney Austin Porter.

Porter told KATV they've filed a claim that states the VA is responsible for mislabeling Teddy Hennings.

"There were two bodies and apparently they mislabeled the bodies," Porter said. "An employee at the VA hospital put the wrong tag on the wrong body. One body was supposed to have been sent for cremation and it's my understanding that particular body was a Caucasian male."

Porter said multiple people should have noticed that one body was white, while the other was black.

KATV reached out to the VA, which released this statement:

“This is absolutely unacceptable and heartbreaking,” said Dr. Margie Scott, Medical Center director. “There are no words that can adequately express our sympathy to the families involved. All veterans who have passed in our facility, and their families, should be treated with dignity, respect and honor. We are absolutely devastated and I have personally made contact with both families, and apologized for this error.”

On Thursday, the funeral home in question is expected to go before the Arkansas State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. Porter said the funeral home in England had its license suspended as a direct result of the mix-up. It's expected to find out if its suspension will stand or if its license will be reinstated.

KATV will continue to update this story.

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