The Department of Veterans Affairs has lately had a bad habit of declaring military veterans dead a little prematurely. This is an issue because when a veteran dies, the VA rips their monthly benefits away from the surviving family and sometimes even demands a refund for the leftover money.
Thanks to congressional pressure, the VA has adjusts its policy to prevent veterans from being so quickly marked as deceased.
U.S. Rep. David Jolly was infuriating when he learned of the case of Michael Rieker, a Navy vet declared dead because he shared the same name as another veteran who actually had died.
“How many veterans have been impacted by a VA that have suggested they’ve died when they’re actually alive?” Jolly said. “What is the financial impact to these individuals? How are the benefits restored? Is it human error? Is it a infrastructure and technology issue? Because when we have those answers, then we can demand a fix.”
Rieker responded to the situation with sarcasm until his benefits were restored.
“It’s so weird because I actually felt pretty good when I woke up that morning, and to have somebody tell you that you were dead – I sort of took it with a grain of salt that it wasn’t true,” Rieker said.
When Jolly started investigating the issue in early November, he found that six veterans in his constituency had fallen victim to this administrative mistake. On Tuesday, he sent a letter to the VA saying he found that 115 veterans were ‘killed’ by the VA between July 2014 and April 2015.
The VA swiftly responded by enacting a new policy that would give the veteran and their surviving family 30 days to confirm the death. It will only terminate benefits when the 30 days expire or when the family responds in the affirmative.