Between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cancelled the benefits of more than 4,200 veterans after it had mistakenly declared them dead, when, in fact, they were very much alive.
The problem was first raised by U.S. Rep. David Jolly last November when he was investigating the issue on behalf of several vets in the Tampa Bay area whose benefit checks suddenly stopped.
According to a report in the Boston Globe, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the VA, Danny Pummill, admitted to the mistake in a letter to Jolly dated May 6. Even though the VA's systems could not track the exact reason each veteran was declared dead, Pummill stated in the letter that these mistakes could have been caused by human error, computer issues or incorrect data from another agency.
Fortunately, however, the benefits for these veterans were restored after the VA took a closer look at their cases. In addition, the VA has said it has now improved its protocols for confirming a veteran's death.
For instance, under the new system, the VA will send a letter to the veteran believed to have died, and it will wait for 30 days for a response - either from the veteran or from a surviving family member - before declaring the person dead and terminating his or her benefits.
Do you need help?
Sadly, this error is just the most recent example of the difficulties veterans face when they try to get the benefits they deserve from the VA. This is one reason why you need a dedicated advocate on your side, especially if you are seeking disability benefits. Contact the VA-accredited claims agents at Rep for Vets® today to learn what options may be available to you. You can reach us at 1-888-5-REPVET.