What Happens When the VA Says You're Dead but You’re Not?
Policy + Politics

What Happens When the VA Says You're Dead but You’re Not?

Flickr/Emmet Tullos

The Department of Veterans Affairs is introducing a new procedure to avoid wrongly declaring veterans dead, Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) announced on Tuesday.

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The change was spurred after a handful constituents told Jolly, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, that they had their benefits taken away because they had been declared dead by the VA.

The cases prompted Jolly to petition the VA, which in turn conducted a review of its records and found 115 such instances between June 2014 and April 2015.

So the VA is altering its policy of cutting off benefits the moment death notices are received and instead giving people 30 days to prove there’s been a mistake. The hope is that the new process will keep veterans from falling into a thicket of red tape that could keep them from receiving their benefits for potentially months until they prove they are, indeed, alive.

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“This is a problem that has gone on far too long and I applaud the VA for taking steps to prevent these types of mistakes from happening in the future. As we have seen, wrongly declaring a veteran dead can create financial hardships and it is extremely disconcerting,” Jolly, who is running for the senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio, said in statement.

The crux of the problems rests with the Social Security Administration’s shared records with the VA. While 99.83 percent of referred from Social Security are accurate, there’s still a gap that veterans can slip through, according to department officials.

 “The new process will allow beneficiaries … an opportunity to correct the error prior to VA terminating (their) monthly benefit,” Danny Pummill, acting undersecretary for benefits, wrote in a December 10 letter to Jolly detailing the new policy.