Missing death certificate keeps family from reaching closure

By  | 

OMAHA, Neb. -- A Vietnam veteran was laid to rest two months ago, but a delay in receiving his death certificate has caused endless problems for his loved ones.

Pat Peterson passed away on Dec. 10 at 70 years old and left his longtime girlfriend $15,000 via his life insurance policy.

Teresa Burks cannot get the money because the insurance company demands the death certificate before paying out.

"We'll always have the pictures and we'll always have the memories, but we need to wrap things up and we can't do that," Burks said.

Nebraska law requires a death certificate be filed five business days after the date of death.

Peterson's brother went to Vital Statistics to get the certificate three week's after his passing, but it wasn't on file. And two months later that's still the case.

The law also states a physician has to sign the death certificate within 24 hours of death.

Peterson's brother made numerous calls to Nebraska Medical Center and left messages.

"To get the death certificate and why it isn't being signed," Denny Peterson said. "I mean, we could have probably got rid of his house a couple of months ago and not have all that payment had we the certificate and moved on with it."

After calls from 6 On Your Side to the doctor's office, Peterson said he's been notified the death certificate is now signed and will be in the mail.

While the signing of the certificate happened almost two months past the deadline, a Nebraska Medical Center spokesperson said he couldn't disclose why because of patient privacy rules.