I-TEAM: VA hospital 'absolutely' failed veteran found dead behind San Francisco facility, vet's family claims

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Saturday, November 21, 2020
Family: VA 'absolutely' failed vet found dead behind SF facility
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A San Francisco veteran was headed to the VA Clinic to get help. Instead he died in a homeless camp in ravine 100 feet behind the hospital and his family wants answers about what happened.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An investigation is underway after a San Francisco veteran's body was found in a ravine behind the VA Medical center nears Land's End a month after he went missing, but the sister of Abraham Siliezar already believes the Veterans Administration failed her brother.

"I knew in my heart that my brother could not have survived a day in his condition," said Alexandra Siliezar. "And I would look at the city and I would say, 'Somewhere in there, there you are. Somewhere in here. You are here. And I just can't find you.'"

Abraham was last seen alive on Aug. 11, 2020, when he was captured on security cameras leaving supportive veterans housing on Kearny Street in San Francisco. His family says he was on his way to the VA medical facility at Fort Miley near Land's End because he wasn't feeling well and was throwing up.

His sister thought it might be COVID-19 so she called an ambulance, but Abraham declined to be transported. The next morning, surveillance cameras captured him leaving the supportive housing on Kearny Street, walking down Bush, but then he disappeared.

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"There were many days that I would walk out of my house in those two months. And just look at the sky and I wanted to yell and scream and say, 'Abraham, where are you, just come up and speak. Somebody find you, " said Alexandra.

Abraham served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserves before graduating from UC Berkeley and serving on the Housing Task Force under Mayor Art Agnos.

"He was a proud Marine, but more than anything, he had a heart of gold," explained Alexandra.

But, Alexandra says PTSD from the Marine Corps took a toll on her brother.

Abraham moved into this VA supportive housing for homeless veterans and then, five years ago, suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was attacked by a transient. After that attack, he experienced frequent seizures and early on-set dementia.

This is why Abraham's family was so worried when he went missing.

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Every day for months, Alexandra, her family and friends searched for Abraham, posting fliers around the Bay Area and working social media.

Then on September 11, park police found Abraham's badly-decomposed body in a ravine just down the hill from the VA Medical Center at Ft. Miley. In October, his remains were finally identified and his family got the heartbreaking news.

When Alexandra found out where her brother's body was found, she immediately thought that something had happened at the hospital. Perhaps he tried to check-in and got turned away.

"I know for a fact that my brother asked and that he was coming to the hospital," said Alexandra who believes he may have gotten turned away from the hospital. "I believe that, I believe he never registered, I believe they never put his name in a computer because he never got through the door."

The path to where Abraham was found leads through the medical center complex, down a trail popular with dog owners, a right turn into a hole in the brush, a precarious slide down the hill, through more brush and into a homeless encampment.

That's where the I-Team's Dan Noyes met a homeless man who claimed he had seen Abraham, before and after he died. He did not want to share his name, but did share this account with Dan and said he saw Abraham's body decompose over the course of weeks:

Dan Noyes: "You saw him after he died."

Homeless man: "Yeah."

Dan: "Or before he died?"

Homeless Man: "Both. I seen him a week before he died and I seen him a week after he died."

Homeless Man: "I was the one screaming, 'Somebody go move the f___ guy on Lands End behind the VA hospital.' That was me, screaming that. Everyone just like, 'What?'"

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San Francisco VA Medical Center Director Bonnie Graham declined the I-Team's request for an interview, but her spokesperson emailed, "Veterans are not turned away from our facility...If a Veteran came to the facility on or around Aug. 10, we would have a record of it. No such record exists."

"I'm very proud of the VA that we actually overall have, you know, much more robust continuum of care for patients, including homeless veterans than we do in the civilian world," explains Stanford's Dr. Dean Winslow who consults at the VA.

Winslow, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, says he's never seen a veteran denied care and that it's too early to know if the VA failed Abraham.

"It's hard to know, sir, until, you know, we get, you know, I think the full report."

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The I-Team asked to see the surveillance videos from that day at the hospital, but the VA did not respond.

Next step in this case, officials say the autopsy report should be released in three months.

Take a look at for a look at more stories by Dan Noyes and the ABC7 News I-Team.