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Vietnam Veteran (Father) Died Of Als...



I do not know if I'm in the right spot, but I have a long story and am searching for answers. My father served in the US Army from 1965-1973. He served in Vietnam and received numerous medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and an Air Medal to name a few. In 2002, he was diagnosed with ALS also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He filed a claim for benefits. At the time, ALS was not considered a service connected disability. He died in January of 2004 and his claim was still in-process. He died without ever receiving a dime, and feeling as if his service meant nothing. I was resentful for so long, because had he had that money, he would have been able to stay at home rather than go into a nursing home. He needed around the clock care. When he died, the military presented me with a flag and paid $600 on his funeral bill. That being said, I found out that in 2008, ALS was found to be service connected. I wrote my congressman and told my story. I told him that the VA at least owed the $2000 for a service related death. I filled out forms and the congressman's office went to work. I just received this letter two days ago. Can anyone please decipher this for me and tell me what it means or what the VA is doing? What is my father's service to this country worth?

Status 6/10/10 (rjm)

Thank you for contacting us regarding Mr. Sparkman.

The regional office is in the process now of reopening the veterans claim for possible service connection for Lou Gehrig's disease. When the decision is made, Ms. Knuckles will be notified with an award letter.

Additional benefits will be paid if Mr. Sparkman's death is rated as being service connected.

The letter goes on to say that if I have questions to call 1-800-827-1000. I did and the answers were generic. First, I was told that no claim was open. Then I was told that a burial benefits claim was open. I am so confused. Can anyone please help me? I want to honor my father by fighting this. He deserved so much more

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4 answers to this question


Did the VA tell your mother to file a DIC claim for his service connected death. She may need to do that pronto. Hopefully Berta will chime in here as she knows this process inside and out.


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First of all, do not use the #800 'phone system, instead use "IRIS", the va.gov website contact system. You'll get a much more comprehensive answer. And, yes, there is quite a bit that you can and need to do to get some satisfaction, and your Mom needs and deserves the DIC (Dependency Indemnity Compensation) that goes with having a husband die of service-connected causes, and, as has been mentioned, Berta is our resident GURU when it comes to DIC. I deferr to her judgement in all matters DIC-related.

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John is right- only AO Nehmer DIC claims can be filed by and awarded to the next of kin.I am not sure how the VA would accept you as the legal claimant here.

What you received is jst a basic letter of acknowledgement.The pre determination team would raise the issue of who the claimant should be.

Is your mother still alive?

Accrued benefits (benefits that a compensation award determines were due to a veteran in his or her lifetime,less any compensation he or she already received -are only payable if the 21-534 form was received by the VA within one year after death.

There are no exceptions to that I am aware of.

When did his spouse file the 21-534? Was it within that first year after death?

Did she formally re-open that claim he had pending for VA comp?

If so what is the status of that claim?

Re-opened claims (that generated the accrued payment award) must be-as I mentioned -filed within one year after death and continuously supported with evidence.

There certainly could be a funeral expense payment due the surviving spouse.

I received in May of this year a smaller payment than that (I think 2,000 is the maximum depending on the actual funeral expense) because my hsband was cremated and had a VA cemetery burial. Still almost 15 years had passed since I applied for this benefit and it was part of the recent AO death DIC award I got so there was not time limit for that payment.

This funeral expense payment is also covered by the formal 21-534 application.

. "I wrote my congressman and told my story. I told him that the VA at least owed the $2000 for a service related death. I filled out forms and the congressman's office went to work"

What forms did you fill out? Was this the actual 21-534 form? It is quite an extensive form as I recall.

If there is no surviving spouse - I dont foresee any way you could be a DIC claimant.

I do think you are seeking a burial/funeral payment.The VA asked me again for the same funeral bills etc they had in my C file for 15 years so it is good idea to have that information ready when they request it from you.

Were you the person who actually paid the funeral/burial expenses?

If I find any more info on any eligibility you could have as daughter of the deceased veteran I will post it here- but other than AO claims (whereby the VA MUST pay any accrued, funeral expenses etc to the next of kin if the AO vet's spouse is deceased)I see only the potential here for recovery of funeral expenses to a degree the VA will determine based on the receipts of those expenses-to you- only if you paid these expenses yourself.I will try to check that out and find a regulation.

Was the ALS listed on the death certificate as causing or contributing to his death?

Did his spouse or yourself re-open his pending within one year after his death or request formally to be substituted for him on the claim that was pending at time of his death?

“Effective September 23, 2008, VA issued a new regulation

establishing presumptive service connection for ALS. 38

C.F.R. § 3.318 (2008). The regulation provides that the

development of ALS manifested at any time after discharge or

release from active military, naval, or air service is

sufficient to establish service connection for that disease.

However, service connection will not be established (1) if

there is affirmative evidence that ALS was not incurred

during or aggravated by service; (2) if there is affirmative

evidence that ALS is due to the Veteran's own willful

misconduct; or (3) if the Veteran did not have active,

continuous service of 90 days or more. Id.”

In this BVA decision the regulations are further described:

“The new § 3.318 applies to all applications for benefits that

are received by VA on or after September 23, 2008, or that

are pending before VA, the United States Court of Appeals for

Veterans Claims, or the United States Court of Appeals for

the Federal Circuit on September 23, 2008.”


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This is from the VA web site as to the Burial Benefits:

(This is why I asked who paid for his burial expenses.On my funeral bill the funeral director had indicated the funeral expense was paid by me with date of payment and my personal checking account number and this is what they VA needed to have.The 2,000 is the most they will pay even if the burial expenses were higher than that.

I also had to state I received 300 from the SSA as a burial payment.There could also be a plot interment amount they will refund to you.Apparently there is separate form from the 534 for this payment.The 21-530 form.

'Department of Veterans

Burial and Plot-Interment Allowances

What Are VA Burial Allowances?

VA burial allowances are partial reimbursements of an eligible veteran's burial and funeral costs. When the cause of death is not service related, the reimbursements are generally described as two payments: (1) a burial and funeral expense allowance, and (2) a plot or interment allowance.

Who Is Eligible?

You may be eligible for a VA burial allowance if:

you paid for a veteran's burial or funeral, AND

you have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased veteran's employer, and

the veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

In addition, at least one of the following conditions must be met:

the veteran died because of a service-related disability, or

the veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death, Or

the veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay, or

the veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR

the veteran died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care, OR

the veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date or death, OR

the veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

How Much Does VA Pay?

Service-Related Death. VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses for deaths on or after September 11, 2001. VA will pay up to $1,500 for deaths prior to September 10, 2001. If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased may be reimbursed.

Nonservice-Related Death. VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance for deaths on or after December 1, 2001. The plot-interment allowance is $150 for deaths prior to December 1, 2001. If the death happened while the veteran was in a VA hospital or under VA contracted nursing home care, some or all of the costs for transporting the veteran’s remains may be reimbursed.

How Can You Apply?

You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-530, Application for Burial Benefits. You should attach a copy of the veteran’s military discharge document (DD 214 or equivalent), death certificate, funeral and burial bills. They should show that you have paid them in full. You may download the form at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/'>http://www.va.gov/vaforms/

Related Benefits

VA National Cemetery Burials / Headstones and Markers / Presidential Memorial Certificates / Burial Flags

For More Information, Call Toll-Free 1-800-827-1000

or Visit Our Web Site at http://www.va.gov

Compensation & Pension Service – May 2008"

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