You’re Dead, No More VA Benefits For You!

By Faye Higbee

Dunedin, Florida – When Mike Rieker’s VA check didn’t arrive in his bank account as usual this week, he became alarmed and checked it out.  The VA told him his benefits had been suspended because he was dead. That was news to him.

Mike Rieker- undated photo- but very much alive

“Well, I’m not. I woke up this morning and I’m feeling rather chipper, in fact.”

Rieker is 69 years old and a U.S. Navy veteran. Six veterans in the Tampa Bay area were declared dead when they were very much alive. Like Mr. Rieker, they depend upon those benefit checks to survive.  Unfortunately, being declared dead by the VA is not a one time issue and has happened for years.

no more VA benefits

Mike Rieker- twitter photo from 2009

No more VA benefits because  they’re dead.  Can they stop paying taxes now?

Back in January of 2015, James Fales, a retired Army Sgt, had his benefits cut off after his wife received a letter of condolence from the VA saying they were sorry for her husband’s demise. They cut off his benefits, despite being alive and well. In his case, he was still able to make doctor’s appointment because that part of the computer system still had him alive.

Robert Pressley, a North Carolina Army Veteran was also declared dead and had his benefits cut off back in May of this year.

The Miami Herald reported,

News reports of cases similar to Rieker’s have cropped up. One Brevard County, Florida, man said the VA had declared him dead four times. Another veteran from Illinois also received a letter denying him benefits because he was deceased — and the same day, in a different envelope, received a new VA card to get care at a VA hospital.

Last November, Mary Ann Clough of Clearwater, Florida, opened a letter that the VA sent to her house, addressed to her family, offering condolences on her death. It said the government would stop sending her monthly checks for the military service of her deceased second husband.

Clough visited the bank and, indeed, money was missing from her account.

“The bank told me, ‘No, you’re deceased,'” the 86-year-old woman said.

Is it the verification system, or human error?

The VA issued a statement that said in part,

“We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused by such errors and work to restore benefits as quickly as possible after any such error is brought to our attention.”

It’s not an “inconvenience.” It’s ridiculous.  Florida Representative David Jolly has helped two of the victims of this snaffu, Clough and Rieker. In spite of the “sweeping overhaul” of the VA, the agency continues to come up with problems that should never occur at all. They are unable to determine how many veterans have died waiting for healthcare, and they are unable to determine who’s dead or alive. They ignore veterans who need medical care. It seems that a major revamping of their entire system is in order.