Mixed legacy for retiring VA cemetery chief Steve Muro

Steve Muro. (Courtesty: Veterans Affairs).
Steve Muro. (Courtesty: Veterans Affairs).

The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ cemetery system retired Friday after tenure of more than 40 years with the federal government, part of which was marred by burial problems at VA graveyards nationwide.

Steve L. Muro became undersecretary for memorial affairs in June 2011, overseeing 131 cemeteries for military veterans and eligible family members. The network earned the highest rating among all organizations in the prominent American Customer Satisfaction Index in 2010, when Muro was interim chief.

But a VA review of the system in 2012 found hundreds of problems with unmarked and mismarked graves, remains buried in incorrect plots and other issues. VA officials said the mistakes were due to sloppy work during renovations by contractors.

The error rate was tiny, at less than 0.0003 percent, but Muro said at the time that “one error is one too many.”

One year after the review, the cemetery system once again earned the top spot in the customer-satisfaction index, bringing in the highest mark to that date for any organization in the public or private sector, according to a VA news release.

Muro, who served two tours with the Navy in the Vietnam war, worked his way up the ranks of the VA’s National Cemetery Administration after joining the agency as an auto mechanic in 1978.

He held the No. 1 and No. 2 roles at six national cemeteries before becoming head of the Office of Field Operations in 2003, helping guide the VA through its largest graveyard expansion since the Civil War, according to his department bio.

Alexandria National Cemetery. (Courtesy: VA).
Alexandria National Cemetery. (Courtesy: VA).

In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Muro the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award, which recognizes senior federal executives with longstanding records of leadership, accomplishments and service.

The VA said in a statement about Muro’s retirement that the department “appreciates his service to his country in the U.S. Navy and his commitment to his fellow veterans.”

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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