Monday, December 31, 2012

Feds Wait Until Home Goes Into Foreclosure & Ex-Servicemember Dies Before Coughing Up Pension Benefits; VA Bureaucrat Declares Reversal Of Initial Denial Of Now-Dead Vet's Claim A Success

A recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle highlights the problems that former armed service members are having receiving their well-earned pension benefits from the Veterans Administration, often times with the latter waiting until after the veteran dies before making payouts. Here's a sample:

  • In November, more than a year after Vietnam veteran John Conrad died of leukemia, the VA sent his widow a letter acknowledging his cancer was caused by exposure to the toxic defoliant Agent Orange.

    The decision marked a reversal for the agency, which had denied Conrad's claim for disability benefits for three years while the former Army specialist was still alive. The denials had come despite supporting medical opinions from a series of doctors, including the VA's own oncologist.

    "We went through our savings and our retirement money. And then, after he died, they said they made a mistake and sent a check for $79,000," his widow, Linda Conrad, said in an interview at her home outside Phoenix.

    Home in foreclosure

    By the time the VA reversed itself, the family home was in foreclosure. Linda Conrad, who had quit her job as a paralegal to care for her husband during his last days, found her efforts to secure a new job thwarted by the recession.

    Yet, in an interview, VA officials deemed John Conrad's saga a success, because the more experienced claims processors who handled Conrad's claim after his death had the authority to reinterpret the medical evidence.

    "That's the way it's supposed to work," said Brad Flohr, assistant director for policy at the VA's compensation service.

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