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free_spirit_etc

How Many Times Does The Va Require Widows And Orphans To Beg

Question

The VA website explains that some widows did not get paid because the VA didn’t always know they had a surviving spouse.

http://www.vba.va.gov/survivorsbenefit.htm

VA to Provide Payments to Eligible Surviving Spouses

“Because VA does not always know if a veteran is survived by a spouse, some surviving spouses have not received the month-of-death benefit to which they are entitled.”

However, those who have read the news know about the “computer glitch.”

The explanation of the computer glitch is that 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.

However, I don’t see a computer glitch causing the major problem. I see the problem caused by the VA employees not following their own procedures.

The “computer glitch” is merely the tip of the iceberg. The problem is much deeper than that.

Shall was say a VA "human employee glitch?" Would it be more effective for them to update the humans, instead of the computers?

When I called the VA to report my husband’s death, I was told that there is no payment for the surviving spouse for the month of death.

Computer glitch? Human Glitch?

However, I DID receive the letter the "computer glitch theory" says were not sent out.

I DID receive the notification letter. The letter clearly stated that if you were the surviving widow, you could be entitled to the month of death payment. It said if you are the surviving spouse you may be entitled to the last payment and call the toll-free number. The computer DID its job.

So I called the VA number. And just like my first call, the VA employee told me there was no such thing as the widow getting the last payment that was due the veteran. Computer glitch? Doesn't seem like it.

I checked the regulations and called again, and was once again told there was no such thing as the widow being entitled to a month of death payment. I had to actually read her the letter, before she believed me.

Then she changed her mind...and said I got to keep it -- But then she decided I should fill out something -- but couldn't decide what - so they wouldn't take the money back. Computer glitch? It doesn't seem like it.

The computer sent the required letter. The humans the letter instructed me to call didn’t know:

1. That the widow was entitled to the payment.

2. What paperwork to fill out to process the month of death claim.

The regulations CLEARLY tell the RO what to do. THEY are supposed to complete the VA Form 119 - to let Finance know NOT to reclaim the money - or if it has been reclaimed already - have finance issue a check.

The regulation M21-1, Part IV 26.02. states:

http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/admin21/m21_1/...4/chg216err.doc

(a) Requests over the phone must be recorded on VA Form 119, “Report of Contact” and the caller must provide oral verification satisfactory to the veteran’s service representative that the caller is the surviving spouse.

The manual TELLS them what to do:

(2) Use a locally generated letter to send one of two possible messages, depending on whether TINQ

(Treasury Inquiry) shows that the veteran’s check or direct deposit has been returned, either:

(a) We will re-issue payment to you; or

(Since you are entitled to the veteran’s payment for the month of death, you are not required to return the check or direct deposit.

(3) In either instance, send the claims folder to Finance with the following notation on OF 41:

“Surviving spouse entitled to 1-time payment of [amount of monthly compensation or pension received by the veteran at time of death] per 38 CFR 3.209©.” If payment has been returned, request Finance to re-issue the payment to the surviving spouse (06A transaction). If payment has not been returned, notify Finance that the overpayment should be removed (08E transaction). Input of the 08E transaction must be accomplished within 45 days of the debt being established. The finance activity must notify the Debt Management Center (DMC) of the action so that they can stop the reclamation process. If the debt has been in the system for 60 days, DMC cannot stop the reclamation process when the finance activity inputs the 08E transaction.

I asked the VA employee to fill out a VA 119, but she told me the 119 was an “in house” form. So instead of doing HER job and filling out the in-house form that the regulations direct them to fill out – she told ME to send in a Statement in Support of Claim – telling them I was entitled to keep the month of death payment.

She informed me that this would keep them from reclaiming the money.

As instructed I filled out the Statement and sent it in. And at least the VA employee wasn't bothered with having to fill out the "in-house" Form 119 that the regulations direct them to fill out when the widow responds to the notice the computer sends out telling her to call.

I guess the "glitchy computer" didn’t read my Statement in Support of Claim because three months later I checked my bank account balance and found that there was a hold on $225 of my funds.

I called the bank to find out why there was a hold placed on the money and they didn’t know. They did some research and found out that the VA had put a hold on the money – the first step in the reclamation process. On May 20, 2007 - three and a half months after my husband died, the VA froze the funds in my personal bank acount without either the VA or the bank so much as notifying me they were doing so.

I contacted the VA and was informed there was no evidence in the record that I was my husband’s widow – despite the fact I sent our marriage license in the same envelope with the Death Certificate, and despite the fact that the Death Certificate itself lists me as the widow.

I re-sent the Death Certificate and the Marriage License.

After I “established” that I was, indeed, my husband’s widow with the VA - the VA informed me that they had no way to stop the reclamation process. But they did inform me that they would reclaim the money from my bank account and issue me a check for that amount.

Two months later - in July, the VA had still not reclaimed the money. Nor did they release the hold. So the money remained in my bank account, but unavailable for me to spend. The bank informed me that the VA could keep an indefinite hold on the money until they decided to reclaim the money or release the hold. Government holds do not have a deadline.

In the meantime, the VA couldn’t issue me a check for the reclaimed money, as they hadn’t reclaimed the money – so they just let the money sit in my bank account - but blocked my access to it.

I do not know what “computer glitch” would be responsible for that – but the humans I contacted were not very helpful.

I finally contacted the VA and informed them that as it had been over six months since my husband died I would like for them to either reclaim the money or release their hold on it.

Though their response informed me they couldn’t do either – that the process was already in action for whatever it was “supposed to do” someone (either a computer or a human) finally reclaimed the money in mid-August 2007

I then sent in a request to be issued a check for my husband’s month of death payment, as I had been informed I could receive a check once the VA reclaimed the money.

I was then informed that as I had now filed a DIC claim, that the issue of whether I was “entitled” to the month of death payment could not be decided until the VA processes my DIC claim.

Isn’t it ironic that the VA would hold up the month of death payment (that every widow is entitled to) for widows who claim their husband’s death is service connected?

If your husband’s death is not service connected, you can get the money (supposedly) promptly. But if your husband’s death is service connected, they can’t make a decision that you are "entitled" to the month of death payment (that is the right of every widow) until they decide if the death is service connected.

It is a rather odd way of applying their motto “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

When finally got a copy of my husband’s C-file (requested June 20, 2007 – finally received May 22, 2008 - after multiple requests) – I found a Finance Operations Form stating that I was entitled to the one time payment of my husband’s last check and instructing them to remove the overpayment transaction (i.e. to NOT reclaim the money from my bank account). This was dated June 28, 2007 – a month and a half before the VA reclaimed the money from my bank.

I sent an IRIS to finance on May 29 2008, stating:

“I previously submitted a claim to be allowed to keep my husband's month of death payment. Upon receipt of my husband's C-file, I found that a transmittal form was sent to Finance Operations on 6-28-2007 that states "Surviving Spouse entitled to one time payment of amt of comp or pen received by veteran at time of death. Remove overpayment (08E Transaction) if payment is not returned. 38 CFR 3.20©"

However, these funds were reclaimed from my checking account in August 2007.As these funds were taken out of my bank account 2 months after the overpayment transaction was supposed to be removed, what is the procedure for being repaid the funds that were taken from my account in error? Thank you,XXX”

The VA responded:

Mrs. xxxx:

I will forward your inquiry on for processing.

Sincerely,

Matthew xxx

Again - The manual TELLS them what to do:

returned, either:

(3) In either instance, send the claims folder to Finance with the following notation on OF 41:

“Surviving spouse entitled to 1-time payment of [amount of monthly compensation or pension received by the veteran at time of death] per 38 CFR 3.209©.” If payment has been returned, request Finance to re-issue the payment to the surviving spouse (06A transaction).

It is now January 2009. I have still not received the month of death payment for my husband’s February 5 2007 death. Nor have I received any follow up from the VA on the issue.

What computer glitch caused this? The computer actually did do its job. It sent me the notice. It was the VA employee human errorsthat created the ongoing problem. These include:

a.) Informing me that widows aren’t entitled to month of death payment

b.) Failing to establish in the record that I was the widow though it was clearly noted on the Death Certificate.

c.) Refusing to fill out form VA 119 to stop the reclamation process when I called in response to the VA letter – as VA procedures direct them to do.

d.) Failing to follow up on my Statement in Support of Claim asking to be granted the month of death payment that I sent in per VA instructions.

e.) Failing to follow up on my multiple IRIS submissions asking to be paid my entitlement of my husband’s last payment.

f.) Failing to follow up on their own finance transmittal in my file by stopping the reclamation process OR issuing me a check when the money was reclaimed in August 2007, as the transmittal and their procedures directed.

g.) Failing to follow up and issue me a check even after I sent them an IRIS in May 2008 directing them to the exact date(June 28, 2007) and exact form (The Finance Operations transmittal form) that stated I was entitled to the payment.

I understand that I have to follow up on this once again. However, I have been so busy with other matters that I haven’t taken the time to do so – mostly because I know it will not be as easy as just sending the request and having it appropriately handled. I have to wait until I have time to deal with the multiple IRIS’s, the multiple excuses, the multiple times the VA says they didn’t get what I sent – or that they lost it - and all the other problems that asking for anything from the VA seems to generate.

And I am still dealing with the follow up to the VA losing my claim for burial benefits (more than once), and then just sending a partial payment because they say that there is no evidence that I incurred any plot expenses, the VA insisting they didn’t receive the evidence I sent within one year of the VCAA notice (though I have signed certified mail receipts showing that they didreceive it – and I sent them an IRIS when I sent the evidence, specifically telling them that I sent the evidence and the certified mail receipt number), the VA dismissing my NOD as “untimely” though it was sent and received within the legal timeframe, and the VA still not providing me with the medical opinion they used to deny my DIC claim – despite the fact that I have repeatedly asked for it mulitple times for over a year.

THAT should be as simple as meeting my request. The denial letter refers to a medical opinion received by the VA. I would like to receive a copy of that opinion, as I need it to obtain an IMO to support my claim. The opinion is not in copy of the claim file I was sent. It should be as easy as - Find the opinion. Send it.

But no, the VA wants ME to provide them with the physician’s name and the date of the opinion to “help with their research.” How am I supposed to provide them with information that is on the document I did not receive to assist them in finding the document? The information they say they need to FIND the document is ON the document they have not sent me! (Does the computer know about this?)

But if I get an IMO that does not address that opinion – they can dismiss my IMO, as it didn’t address the evidence “of record.”

So following up on the month of death payment has not been on the top of my priority list, as I need to get other things that are caught in the tangled web of the VA straightened out that are more important.

And because I have no reason to believe that one more request that the situation will be resolved will be handled any more efficiently than all my previous requests have.

Should a widow have to follow up time and time and time again to get her $225 back from the VA? Shouldn’t it have been handled right in the first place – when the “glitchy computer” did send me the notice informing me I might be entitled to the month of death payment – and I did follow up on the notice? (But still had to READ the letter to the VA employee, because she kept insisting that there was no such thing as the widow being entitled to the last payment due the veteran).

Or shouldn’t it have been handled when I sent them the IRIS letting them know the VA had reclaimed the money and I wanted my check? Or shouldn’t it have been handled when I informed them eight months ago that my file even shows I should be sent the payment, but that the payment was never sent?

How many times does the VA require a widow has to beg for what she is legally entitled to? Hopefully after I beg a few more times – the VA will deem me "deserving enough" of my husband’s month of death payment to care for the “widow and orphan” and give my $225 back.

The “computer glitch” is merely the tip of the iceberg. It is so much deeper than that.

Edited by free_spirit_etc

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Guest morgan

Regulations? What's that?

Read? What's that?

I'm convinced they are illiterate. It seems to me that someone needs to tell them that hadit has sent thousands of well-informed veterans and survivors into the system who actually are submitting coherent claims. And if VA reps could read, they would discover that these claimants have done their work for them. THEY JUST WON'T READ! (Yes, I'm shouting at my computer.) We've all learned a lot here from each other, and we know how to read the regs, but NO ONE can teach us how to head off deliberate disregard for law, considering no one is held accountable for their stupid mistakes.

Free_spirit_etc, I'm sorry about your spouse. This account of what you went through would be hilarious, if it were not so serious and frustrating...and typical! I just went through similar frustration with the withdrawal of my husband's month-of-death compensation from my bank account. Thank goodness, I didn't overdraw my account, because I certainly had bills to pay and limited money to do it with. I had no idea that VA would take his entire month's compensation. Payment up to the date of his death was his, fair and square. I asked to get it back and the bank told me I couldn't. I asked why the bank would allow anyone to steal 19 days' pay from our account. That part didn't belong to VA. The branch manager said, "VA does that all the time and we can't stop them." (In today's government climate, that's scary!) I asked my SO why, and his answer was, "That's just what they do." I asked if that made any sense when the VA was looking for 11,000 survivors to repay at the same time they took month-of-death pay from me. He just grunted. (Incompetent lot, we have to deal with!) The SO also asked for the receipts from the funeral, but failed to tell me I had to file separately for burial benefits and the grave marker. Now I have to go back and face the claims process again for that.

Thank goodness, I got my DIC approval letter today. In the SAME mail run, I also received a letter telling me my DIC claim was still being considered. Talking about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. And despite writing a CLEAR letter about the number of years we were married, and sending the marriage certificate to confirm, they didn't award the extra monthly benefit of $246 based on the eight-years rule. Someone from the VARO had called my husband just a few months before his death to ask if we were still married. She told me they do that every eight years. Now I have to go back and explain that to them too. ARRRRHGGGGGGHH!

I am very grateful to get the large white envelope in hand, but they say it will be 15 days more till pay day. Meanwhile, I fight the mortgage company off from making good on its threat to accelerate the loan on our home. They tell me I'm eligible for a loan mod, but that won't help when I can't show bank deposits to verify income enough to pay even a modified payment. Losing a wonderful spouse and my LIFE with him is enough. Losing our home is about to tip me over emotionally. I'm hanging on by the skin of my teeth. Maybe work will get easier to find soon. I've had no response from tons of resumes sent. Even temp agencies won't talk to me because I don't have recent work history for the last two years. I stayed with my husband around the clock for five years and don't regret a minute of it. I just need a job now. Even WalMart didn't want me to stock shelves--I'm overqualified and they are having too much turnover and training of stocking employees. I'm hoping the lender will back off a little when I show them the award letter. It would have been much better if the additional benefits had shown on it, because I need every dollar to prove I can make the new payment.

Free_spirit_etc, if it helps any to know, I'm begging too. I hope you soon get your money.

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What is the eight years rule? I am trying to set it all up for my wife should I croak, any information would be appreciated.

All of the many nuances are here at hadit somewhere.I explained these benefits in some detail here before but they are also found within 38 USC 1318.

8 year rule, 5 year rule, hypothetical DIC-Green V Brown 1997, CUE entitlements to DIC,inferred DIC claims that VA failed to recognize,death inm service DIC,

Survivorship rules in Nehmer, POW one year rule , enhanced DIC etc-

I will try to find this stuff here again but it is easier I think to read the actual regs- 38 USC 1318

and 38 CFR 3.22 and print them out and put them with your will and Health Care Proxys etc.

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Guest morgan
What is the eight years rule? I am trying to set it all up for my wife should I croak, any information would be appreciated.

Jim, here is a short clip of the "eight-year" rule. Notice that the eighth year kicks in increased benefits, but requires the cause of death to be from SC conditions. If a veteran is totally disabled and married to the same spouse for ten years, then the benefits are paid no matter the cause of death. This came from the VA Web site:

Veteran's Death Was On or After January 1, 1993

Effective 12/1/08

Basic Monthly Rate = $1154 (38 U.S.C. 1311(a)(1))

Additional Allowances:

a. Add $246 if at the time of the veteran's death, the veteran was in receipt of or entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling (including a rating based on individual unemployability) for a continuous period of at least 8 years immediately preceding death AND the surviving spouse was married to the veteran for those same 8 years. (38 U.S.C. 1311(a)(2))

Veteran's Death Was On or After January 1, 1993

Effective 12/1/08

Basic Monthly Rate = $1154 (38 U.S.C. 1311(a)(1))

Additional Allowances:

a. Add $246 if at the time of the veteran's death, the veteran was in receipt of or entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling (including a rating based on individual unemployability) for a continuous period of at least 8 years immediately preceding death AND the surviving spouse was married to the veteran for those same 8 years. (38 U.S.C. 1311(a)(2))

The one thing I'd recommend that you keep on file and ready to mail is the claim forms (separate forms are used) for burial benefits and the grave marker and memorial. The VA sometimes will pay up to $2000 for burial costs. One huge concern should be to prepay and plan funeral arrangements. The funeral business is a rip off "at the time of need," as they call it. I am just now getting clear thinking and I am shocked at how the funeral was handled for my husband. Including the VFW part. It was like watching the Keystone Cops. They stopped in the middle of folding the flag, with one guy shouting, "Wait, Joe! We're doing it wrong." Then they stopped and refolded it. Then as one guy handed me the folded flag, he tried to say something to me, then stopped and said, "I just got new teeth and I can't talk." It was huge disappointment. Not what I expected for military honors. I know they are volunteers, and I appreciated their time on a very cold day, but I till expected more than that. I gave a donation for their services, but if I had known what it would be, I would have skipped it altogether.

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The "8 year rule" does not require that the vet died from a SC condition. You must be married to the same person 8 years of the ten years the vet is totally disabled prior to death. The years have to be consecutive. This is so that 80 year old vet does not marry an 18 year old to help her out with DIC before he dies. If he was total for 10 years before death the 18 year old would still get basic DIC but not enhanced. If you want to get a little revenge on the VA keep your old lady til the end. Don't divorce her and marry the 18 year old two years before you croak. Now if the old lady dies first marry the 18 year old and go out in a blaze of glory.

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Guest morgan
The "8 year rule" does not require that the vet died from a SC condition. You must be married to the same person 8 years of the ten years the vet is totally disabled prior to death. The years have to be consecutive. This is so that 80 year old vet does not marry an 18 year old to help her out with DIC before he dies. If he was total for 10 years before death the 18 year old would still get basic DIC but not enhanced. If you want to get a little revenge on the VA keep your old lady til the end. Don't divorce her and marry the 18 year old two years before you croak. Now if the old lady dies first marry the 18 year old and go out in a blaze of glory.

The VA told me an SC condition cause of death is absolutely required at eight years, but not at 10 years. So I don't know, I certainly don't get correct information most of the time. But as I reread this clip, it plainly says A service-connected disability, not cause of death. So sorry I passed along the wrong information. I didn't think any more about it because my husband's death was service connected and I didn't have that hurdle. Thanks for correcting that John. ;)

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