(Photo Credit: Adam Fagan)
According to a congressional inquiry from Rep. David Jolly of Florida, about 4,200 veterans have been accidentally declared dead by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the last five years. The report estimates that this error affects 70 veterans a month.
In a statement to the Military Times, Jolly said that this problem can harm veterans by rescinding their veterans benefits without warning.
“These numbers confirm our suspicion, that mistaken deaths by the VA have been a widespread problem impacting thousands of veterans across the country,” Jolly said in a statement.
“It’s a problem that should have been addressed years ago, as it has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”
Seventy veterans a month may seem like a drop in the bucket for the millions of military members and veterans covered by the VA. But if this mistake happens to you, are you prepared to get your benefits reinstated?
1) Get Your Paperwork In Order
After Jolly started bringing attention to this issue in December 2015, the VA created a 30-day window in which a veteran or their family can provide proof that a vet has actually died before pulling financial support. The moment you learn your benefits are in jeopardy, the clock is ticking.
The first step to getting this situation figured out is to collect the documents that prove your identity. A driver’s license, passport and military ID should work. If you have your DD214 on hand, collect that as well. It might be worth it to have physical proof that you served in the U.S. military down the line.
Once you have these documents, stick them in the folder. You’re gonna need them.
2) Find a Notary
A notary is a person who can create legally binding documents. If you’re going to convince the VA that you aren’t dead, showing up in person isn’t enough. You need to have a notarized letter proving that you are alive.
With your identification documents in tow, visit a notary. You can find one at the following places:
– Your local bank. Most banks hire a notary can keep them onsite.
– A law office. Most attorneys can also act as notaries.
– A courthouse. Like banks, courthouses tend to have notaries on hand.
– An online database. NotaryRotary.com lets you search for nearby notaries in your zip code.
Failing that, you can notarize a document online using NotaryNow.com. All you need is the document stating that you are alive, a webcam and the ID you will use to prove who you are. After you upload the document, you can show your ID through the webcam and answer questions proving your identity. Then you can download your notarized document.
3) Bring Your Notarized Letter to the VA
Visit whichever VA site disburses veterans benefits in your area. If you aren’t sure, the facility included in the return address on the letter informing you that you are dead is a place to start. Show them your notarized letter to prove that you are actually alive. You might need to provide additional documents to further prove who you are.
Hopefully, someone at the VA facility will be able to see that you are alive and well and help reinstate your veterans benefits.
4) Contact Your Congressman
Whether or not you get your veterans benefits back, your congressman should be informed that their constituents are having this problem. That’s exactly how Jolly got involved and pushed a congressional inquiry studying these errors. If bringing a notarized document to the VA did not fix this error, your congressman may be able to exert the necessary pressure to fix it more quickly.
If you have any additional insight on how to prove to the VA that you are not dead in any way, shape or form, let us know in the comments.