News 4 Investigates: How Missouri’s backlog is causing more heartache for a woman who just lost her husband

Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 7:38 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - Losing a spouse too soon can be one of the hardest heartbreaks to bare, but one local woman said the State of Missouri has been making it all so much worse because of a months-long delay in getting her husband’s death certificate.

Now, staffing shortages are creating another big backlog and this one is causing serious stress for a woman who has already been through so much.

News 4 asked Carolyn to describe her husband Mark Yarian.

“Oh, how much time have you got, Mark was a remarkable man,” she said.

It’s clear how much she loved him.

“He was a strong Christian man, he loved the Lord and he loved people,” said Carolyn. “Mark had a remarkable sense of humor and he was very quick-witted.”

An Air Force veteran, healthy, and vibrant, she never imagined she’d lose him to a terrible accident in their home.

“He fell headfirst 11 feet and hit the stairs in front of me,” she said.

After suffering a stroke, he passed on February 6, 2022. Ever since, in addition to her grief, Carolyn has faced piling up paperwork. The problem is she cannot get Mark’s death certificate from the State of Missouri.

“He said it will be at least August if not longer, we cannot give you a timeline,” Carolyn said.

Without it, Carolyn’s been unable to claim her husband’s benefits. Letters from the life insurance company state the money is unclaimed and will be forwarded to the state.

“I opened it up and I couldn’t even believe it. and I called them and said, ‘How can you say this is unclaimed?’” she recalled.

Her frustration has been growing and the situation is getting more dire.

“I may have to sell this house, which would add insult to injury,” she said.

So, News 4 sent multiple requests for information to Jefferson City, specifically the Health Department, which manages the Bureau of Vital Records. They declined our requests for an interview but said they are short-staffed from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark’s death certificate had an error and needed a correction. The state said they process up to 2,500 death corrections in a single year. A spokesperson wrote, “This team is still being offered overtime and weekend hours to address the immediate backlog, while simultaneously working to find new efficiencies through automated and digital means.”

“What’s taking so long? that I don’t understand,” she said.

But, Carolyn told News 4 it doesn’t make sense.

“I would hope that somebody, whether it’s the governor or somebody else that does the hiring, that they would look into this situation, that they would hire people, even on a temporary basis,” she said.

News 4 asked Governor Mike Parson about the situation, but he said he was not aware of any issues.

“I don’t know where that breakdown is, but you shouldn’t have to wait a year for a death certificate,” he said.

“He would be really upset because I know he was making sure I was always taken care of,” Carolyn said.

Having already lost her husband, Carolyn said she’s still just waiting and is at a loss now of what to do next.

“Disappointment, frustration, anger, there are just a lot of emotions,” said Carolyn.

News 4 reached out to the life insurance company, but they said they wouldn’t comment.

Carolyn has been through so much, after her husband’s death, she also lost her brother Don Lucy, who was a beloved employee at KMOV.

Just Friday, News 4 was finally able to get Carolyn in touch with a supervisor at the state.