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VA asks Vietnam veteran to return pension overpayments

Residents of Saint Louis, Missouri, will no doubt sympathize with a dying individual who wants to be left in peace and spend his last few days with his loved ones rather than arguing with government officials. One can only imagine the trauma that a dying Washington state veteran has been going through after being told by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to repay an overpayment of his pension benefits, which was caused by the VA's own paperwork backlog.

The veteran had joined the Navy in 1964 at the age of 17 and is a Vietnam vet. He started collecting a VA pension years later after becoming destitute and no longer able to work. His conflict with the VA started in January after he married his long-time girlfriend due to a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. His wife earns $22,000 a year at her job.

After getting married, the Vietnam vet informed the VA about the change in his marital status and income; however, he did not hear back from the VA for the next six months. Finally, the VA determined that the Vietnam vet was no longer eligible to receive pension benefits since there had been such an increase in his household income. The VA further stated that he will have to repay the pension benefits that he received between January and June, the time period during which his paperwork was being processed.

The veteran did not have any problem with the loss of his $1,000 per month pension, but he believes that he should not be asked to repay the funds that the VA says he now owes. Requesting a hardship exemption, the couple has stated that they do not have the money to pay the VA back and that they will not be able to survive if they are forced to do so. His wife stated that she does not have time for these financial issues and just wants her husband to be left to die in peace.

A VA spokesperson stated that these kinds of cases break their hearts, but that their response is dictated by the law. Considering that such complications are common when dealing with the VA or the Social Security Administration, it may be a wise decision for beneficiaries to seek legal counsel if they must address similar issues.

Source: Fox News, "VA tells dying Vietnam vet he owes $6,300 in pension overpayments," Dec. 7, 2014

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Alan E. DeWoskin, P.C.
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