Imagine being a military veteran justly collecting disability benefits from Veterans Affairs (VA). Then one day, your veterans benefits stopped unexpectedly and without any explanation from the VA. The VA didn’t revoke them because you miraculously recovered and no longer needed assistance, but because they mistakenly thought you were dead. Upon learning that veterans benefits stopped unexpectedly, many questions would likely race through your mind ranging from mistaken identity to speculations of fraudulent activity. Now, as if things couldn’t get any worse, imagine that this scenario didn’t just happen to you, but thousands of others whose veterans benefits stopped over the past five years. This has been the surreal circumstance that over 4,000 of our military personnel have been forced to deal with.
Why Were Veterans Benefits Stopped For 4,000 Beneficiaries Without Anyone Noticing?
As reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the VA implemented a system that would cross reference names with the Social Security Administration to determine if a veteran was deceased or not. If a veteran’s name was spelled wrong or a similar name existed it may reference the wrong veteran as being deceased and therefore deeming them ineligible for benefits. The WSJ refers to the case of Michael Rieker, a Navy veteran who had his benefits cut off by the VA. Mr. Rieker was allegedly mistaken for another Michael Rieker who was in the system and had passed away. With help from his congressman Rep. David Jolly, Mr. Rieker was eventually afforded his benefits again after proving to the VA that he was still alive.
Veterans Benefits Stopped Erroneously For More Than Four Years
The VA admits that they have made this error 4,201 times from 2011-2015. The errors usually occurred due to either a mistake made by an employee or inaccurate cross-checking of data by the department’s computer system. Regardless, many veterans depend on these benefits as a primary source of income. Having them unexpectedly revoked not only upsets their current livelihood but their future as well. Even after they have their benefits restored, they may still have to deal with the repercussions.
Veterans Benefits Stopped Due to Mistaken Identity, But What Action Is Being Taken?
In the scheme of things, an error of only 4,201 claims isn’t a lot when you consider that over 2 million veterans have passed away in the last five years. As stated by the VA, the percent of erroneous terminations only accounts for 0.2% of claims, all of which were redistributed. But the VA acknowledges that there is a problem with the system, and in December of 2015, the department announced a new protocol that would be implemented in order to determine if a veteran was truly deceased. The new process requires that when the VA learns a veteran is deceased, they must try to contact the veteran or a family member before ordering all veterans benefits stopped. This new program allows veterans or their family up to 30 days to respond to the VA request, before cutting off benefits.
There is not currently any data on the efficiently of the VA’s new method, but for the veterans that were affected knowing that the VA is looking into the matter and trying to come up with a solution may provide a bit of comfort.
Applying For VA Disability Benefits
While the system may seem like more headache than it’s worth, if you are a veteran who fits the criteria applying for VA benefits can do a lot of good financial. When applying for benefits through the VA you can either apply on your own or with the help of a VA accredited attorney. Most people will have no problem applying on their own initially, but if you face a complicated case or an appeal, securing an attorney can be to your benefit.
If you’re ready to connect to an attorney in your area, simply click on the button below to check your eligibility.