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Death certificate backlog causing problems for Texas funeral homes

A backlog in death certificates is causing problems for Texas funeral homes and families. (CBS Austin)

A backlog in death certificates is causing problems for Texas funeral homes and families.

According to Robert Falcon, owner of Affordable Burial and Cremation Service in Austin, the issue stems from a new state reporting system.

On January 1st, the Department of State Health Services began requiring funeral homes and physicians use a new software for filling out death and birth certificates.

The goal in implementing the new system was to consolidate the state's information while utilizing up-to-date technology.

Falcon says since the change, families have had to wait weeks for death certificates for their loved ones.

"We've only gotten two shipments of death certificates since the first of the year. Typically we're receiving 5-6 sets of death certificates a day," says Falcon.

Falcon claims the delays are impacting families who need the certificates for social security benefits, life insurance and funds for pre-paid funeral services.

According to DSHS, about thirty percent of death certificates created since January 1st have not completed all the steps to be registered.

Tuesday, DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt spoke to the Senate Finance Committee about the issue.

"The backlog is longer than what we would want it to be," said Hellerstedt.

Hellerstedt said the backlog is partly due to a lack of staffing at DSHS.

He presented a chart showing staffing at DSHS has remained the same despite an increase in death certificate requests over the years.

The Department of State Health Services says user-error has also contributed to the backlog, as funeral directors and physicians adapt to the new system.

For funeral home owners like Robert Falcon, the delay is devastating for business and families he serves.

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