Family upset after bodies switched at Denver veterans' hospital

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DENVER (FOX) -- A grieving family was horrified when they learn the body of their loved one was missing.

"They lost my father's body," said Sara Sandoval, as she sat in her mother's living room.

Anthony Sandoval spent his last days at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care center.

After he died on Oct. 2, Anthony Sandoval's remains were sent to one mortuary, while another man's remains were sent to Sandoval's family for cremation.

The Navy veteran's remains were misplaced for five days, leaving his family with feelings of guilt and a lot of unanswered questions.

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"Call it intuition call it whatever," said Anthony Sandoval's wife, Wilma Sandoval. "But I know he was telling me he was letting me know that I had to go find him."

"She kept telling me the next day 'we gotta find your dad we gotta find your dad,'" said Sara Sandoval. "'He's telling me he's not where he's supposed to be, he's afraid, he's scared he's not where he's supposed to be.'"

They learned the VA had mixed up Anthony's remains with someone else after Newcomer Mortuary alerted them the VA had delivered the wrong remains for cremation.

"I understand they were short staffed," said Sara Sandoval. "But this wasn't an old pair of boots, this was two human bodies that they mixed up. This is my father. He wasn't garbage. This was my dad."

Now, the VA is telling FOX31 Denver they admit their mistake and are working to correct the situation.

After reaching out to VA administrators, officials sent Problem Solvers a statement that reads in part:

"VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System takes full responsibility for the mistakes that occurred at the Denver VAMC.

"We can confirm that the Denver VAMC has worked with the family to correct the situation and that the family has been in contact with Chief Counsel and was informed of the claims process.

"Additionally, we conducted a thorough review of our procedures and have made the necessary changes to ensure these mistakes are not repeated."

After we contacted the VA, the family was able to get in touch with the agency's attorney, who told them he would send them the appropriate paperwork to file a claim.

"I want to make sure it never happens to anybody else. This is the worst nightmare anybody could imagine," said Wilma Sandoval.

They say no amount of money can compensate for what they've gone through.

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