County apologizes to grieving family confusion over rules at the veterans cemetery

<p>Onondaga County Veterans Memorial Cemetery</p>

Onondaga County is apologizing to a grieving family who claims they had to overcome "unreasonable regulations" to have a loved one buried in the Onondaga County Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Jennifer Winney told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon that someone at the County Veterans Service Agency told them there was a 5 year residency requirement for veterans to be eligible for burial. She says her stepfather, Phillip Nicastro died unexpectedly last week at the age of 69 at his home just outside the Village of Skaneateles. At the time of his death, Winney says her stepfather had lived in Onondaga County for 4 years.

Nicastro served in the Vietnam War and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his service, according to Winney. She says when her mother contacted the Onondaga County Veterans Service Agency, she was told that Nicastro did not meet a 5 year residency requirement to qualify for a $500 cemetery plot. Winney says the family was told they would have to pay $1,500 to have him buried at the Veterans Cemetery located on Howlett Hill Road in the Town of Onondaga.

"I was dumbfounded, a deceased war veteran should be able to have the opportunity to be buried in any veteran cemetery he or she wishes at little or no cost," Winney said. Winney says funeral director Robert Gray intervened on the family's behalf. The funeral director pointed out that the rules posted on the county's website were misleading. So the county allowed Nicastro to be buried at the lower cost.

The Veterans Cemetery comes under the jurisdiction of the Onondaga County Parks Department. Onondaga Copunty Chief of Staff Ben Dublin says there was a "miscommunication...the family has our apologies." Dublin says there is no residency requirement for veterans who currently live in Onondaga County. He says former residents who moved away and would like to be buried at the Veterans cemetery have to prove that they had lived in the county for 5 years which is apparently where the confusion took place. Dublin says the regulations are "clear on our website."

Dublin says he has spoken with people at the Veterans Service Agency to make sure " everyone is on the proper page moving forward." Dublin says he is not sure where the $1500 figure came from. He says all plots cost $500.

Judy Tassone heads the Facilities Committee of the Onondaga County Legislature, which oversees the Parks Department. Tassone said she was "sorry they went through that. Tassone says she is concerned that the requirements for burial at the Veterans Cemetery are not specifically spelled out on the county's website.