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Commander Bob

Va Glitch Causes Dic Widow More Grief.

Question

Dear Honorable Senator Akaka,

I am concerned about my wife's DIC payments after I die. I am a former resident of Hawaii. I write you today as a combat wounded Vietnam veteran, recovering from cancer treatments and surgery. While putting my affairs in order, I came across a veterans website posting which brings me to you today.

I read this veteran's widow's posting on Christmas, . ...I have come to Hadit this time with a broken heart. My kind and sweet husband of 27 years died last Friday. ...

Saturday, January 3rd, the widow wrote, ...I was glad to see that VA had deposited his payment as usual for the month of his death. Auto payments were due to post in a few days -- and..... But late yesterday afternoon, VA withdrew the entire deposit. I'm wondering how VA could withdraw the entire amount.

Reference is made to the "Honolulu Star Bulletin," Dec. 20, 2008.;

<H1 id=storyTitle>VA to fix spousal-payment glitch</H1>"A Maui widow's plight highlights a computer error that wrongfully denied certain benefits

By Gregg K. Kakesako

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 20, 2008

****The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin issuing retroactive payments this month to eligible surviving spouses of war veterans who have been wrongfully denied up to millions of dollars in government benefits over the past 12 years. The problem was pointed out to VA director James Peake last week by Sen. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, after the Hawaii Democrat received a complaint from Ruby Sasaoka of Kula, Maui, who was told by the VA that she wasn't entitled to her husband's last pension and disability check of $2,669.

Her husband, Raymond Sasaoka, died last December and she had used his last VA check to pay for funeral expenses. He had served in the Korean War as an Army corporal and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and hearing loss.

In January, the VA told Ruby Sasaoka to return the money and nine months later the U.S. Treasury took the money out of her checking account.

However, Congress passed a law in 1996 giving veterans' spouses the right to keep their spouses' final month of benefits.

But the VA never updated its automated computer systems, which sends out checks and notification letters. As a result, spouses were either denied the final month of payment or asked to send the checks back. If the checks were already deposited or spent, the U.S. Treasury moved to seize the money directly from their accounts.

"This flawed practice has caused serious hardship for many widows," Akaka said last week. "Now that this problem has been brought to light, I trust that surviving spouses will receive the benefits they are due."

Based on Akaka's inquiry, Peake established a special task force to identify and pay the beneficiaries who never received the benefit or were inadvertently required to repay the money issued for the month of a veteran's death.

The task force is reviewing VA's payment records for veterans who died after Dec. 31, 1996, and who are survived by a spouse. The review will identify those to whom VA owes retroactive benefits for the month of the veteran's death.

Because there are deceased veterans for whom VA does not have marital status information, a special Survivors' Call Center has been established for spouses who believe they may be entitled to this retroactive month-of-death benefit.

Surviving spouses are encouraged to contact the Survivors' Call Center at (800) 749-8387, Mondays through Fridays. Inquiries may also be submitted through online at www.vba.va.gov/survivorsbenefit.htm.

Akaka's committee estimates that 50,000 surviving spouses each year since 1996 could be affected, based on VA numbers. Out of that 50,000, some spouses might have received the payments they were due if they called the VA at the time to inquire about their rights.****

It is arrogant of the bureaucrats responsible for correcting the problem, to have failed you and the widow, whom I don't know. VA director Peake needs to be brought before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and be chastised for his slow action to your comments to him. It also makes you look easliy beguiled by those you are burdended to oversee, and if I may be blunt... ineffective as a leader. What are you going to do about this?

Again, I am concerned about my wife's DIC payments after I die.

Yours truly,

xxxx xxxxxxxxxx

Edited by Commander Bob 92-93

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A vet called the other day and told me about a widow that had her late husband's last VA comp check taken away. She is in my congressional district. The glitch goes on. They certainly have my attention.

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Seems to me that when its a VA glitch its when the VA does it right in a timely manner.

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Good point!

I also don't quite buy into the excuse that the computer glitch caused them to not send letters to Vet's widows.

As soon as you die - they send notice out telling you not to spend the next check - to send it back - or to pay back the VA if you have already cashed the check.

It is THAT notice that states if you are the surviving widow you may be entitled to the one time month of death payment - and to call the toll-free number.

As I laid out in my post in this thread - How many times does the VA require a widow to beg... the Widows WERE getting the notices. The VA employees kept telling the widows there was no such thing as the month of death payment when they called.

But it isn't like the VA is telling it - that notices weren't being sent out because the VA didn't know the vet had a widow or the computer system wasn't updated. The widow notice is right on the letter they send EVERYONE telling whomever is left they better not cash the check - or they better repay the VA.

The problem for widows is finding someone AT the VA who knows how to handle a widow's claim for the month of death payment.

Free

Seems to me that when its a VA glitch its when the VA does it right in a timely manner.

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I called the Survivors’ Call Center at the toll-free telephone number, 1-800-749-8387 today.

The woman was very nice and took all my information.

If it is handled correctly from this point - I may actually get my month of death payment this year.

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