Losing one’s spouse is listed as one of the most stressful events a person may experience in their lifetime. Imagine if possible the losing of a spouse and all that is involved with dealing with the death, medical expenses, funeral arrangements, a gigantic list of extra costs, and the removal of a life partner whom, in many cases, was such a deeply entwined part of your life that life stopped really having meaning. The average cost of a funeral runs $7000.00-$10,000.00. The Department of Veteran Affairs pays a lump sum ranging from $300.00 if death was due to non-combat related issues and $2000.00 if death is due to combat related issues. Social Security death benefit is around $225.00. Now add to the widow’s stress the unexpected realization that all the wonderful promises from the Department of Veteran Affairs that there would be survivor’s benefits should the veteran die before the spouse were nothing but fabrications that are able to be swept away based upon carefully written documentation. In addition to all this, also add as the Department of Veteran Affairs contacts you informing you that the last benefit payment received by the veteran now has to be returned. This is exactly what widows and widowers of our service men and women around our nation are experiencing on a regular basis. All the wonderful promises made to the spouses of our veterans are being found to be nothing but political rhetoric full of nothing but hot air and no substance. In other words, all these promises are being found to be nothing but lies.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has become the experts in word manipulation. They are able to deny payment to a surviving spouse by definition as to what is a service connected death. An example might be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am not sure as to what the VA would determine a proper death due to PTSD. Alcoholism is a common comorbid condition secondary to PTSD. But a recent Vietnam veteran who died of liver issues and who was a heavy drinker diagnosed with PTSD was not seen as having died of a service connection disability and the widow was denied any survivor’s benefits. While many Vietnam veterans live with Hepatitis C directly related to their tour of duty in Vietnam, the VA has denied this diagnosis to many. Another diagnosis of the VA was ‘brain syndrome’. Since ‘brain syndrome’ does not exist in any diagnostic manuals every time the veteran would seek emergency medical assistance for depression or anxiety it was denied by the VA leaving the veteran with a huge medical bill. Likewise, it would be impossible for any surviving spouse to ever receive benefits since this diagnosis could never be the ‘cause of death’. There was another situation where the veteran had been wounded on Guadalcanal. PTSD was not recognized yet by the military as was evidenced by Patton’s memorial slapping of a broken veteran in an effort to get him to face his fears and get back into the fight. The wounded veteran eventually died of stress related events and causes. Since there was no diagnosis of PTSD there were no survivor’s benefits for the widow. The VA is not known for assisting the veteran in getting a full understanding and diagnosis of conditions experienced by the individual. If a veteran has issues which are not advocated for on the behalf of the veteran, there normally are no attempts by the VA to see that the veteran is covered and therefore, no survivor’s benefits will be paid. This is commonly experienced by many veterans who were purposely exposed to chemicals and radiation while in the service in efforts for the military to understand the reactions of the human body to certain exposures. Many times benefits have been died due to carefully written time constraints in which the veteran must have submitted a claim even though symptoms might not have been experienced yet by the veteran.
In many cases it does not matter what the facts might be nearly as much as what is the agenda for the VA in their diagnosis. I have seen many cases when the records might be clear but the agenda of the VA to keep either issues or a person’s duties quiet has overshadowed doing what was right where the disability benefits of the veteran is concerned. Many veterans will testify as to how they were exposed to chemical warfare during the Iraqi war but since it was a high priority to keep this information quiet, no claims were ever recognized so far as are known. During Vietnam while Agent Orange might have finally been recognized there were many other ‘agents’ of numerous color codes. Each of these chemicals has affected the veteran in their own unique ways. Since many of these agents were classified, claims were denied. Many DD214’s or the discharge paperwork for the veteran have had incorrect and even false information thus denying the veteran the benefits due them. It is not uncommon for veterans to die before the veteran gets recognized for their service and receive benefits promised. Our government is quick to send our men and women into countries for clandestine missions and equally as quick to deny any responsibility should they get hurt. One young man who suffered a broken neck while behind enemy lines during the Korean War recently died of complications to his neck affecting his airways. Since the government did not want any information of having sent him behind enemy lines, there were no benefits paid during the life of the veteran and likewise no survivor’s benefits. Situations involving rape of male veterans by male veterans, abuse by superiors, or other situations deemed to negatively affect the image of the military are often denied or placed in a revolving door of increasingly needing more documentation thus denying benefits and thus denying survivor’s benefits.
In many cases the veteran has an additional diagnosis of un-employability. The VA promises that the surviving spouse will receive payments from this un-employability but fail to explain that the couple must be married 20 year after the time in which the diagnosis has rendered. This means that a couple could have been married for a total of 50 years. If the veteran was married while in the service and was a ‘lifer’ giving 20 years of service to the military and did not seek any assistance in dealing with issues until 25 years after getting out of the military, his or her spouse could be denied benefits if they were not married for 20 years AFTER the diagnosis of un-employability has been accepted by the VA. The VA has found numerous loop holes in which they are able to deny any responsibility to take care of the veteran’s surviving spouses. It is unfortunate that the organization which has promised to care for those who have served our county and their families have become nothing more than a snake oil salesman peddling a pocket full of lies.
Another wonderful surprise which awaits the surviving spouse is that if the veteran dies prior to 0001hrs of the following month that all the benefit received for the previous month is to be returned. This has to be one of the top ten idiotic expectations of our government. Who normally keeps a check untouched for 30 days just in case they die during that month? This I have found to be true because it happened to me. I was asked by a veteran I knew if I would be willing to take care of any expenses after his death since he did not speak of any family members. I did as requested after he died. Shortly thereafter the Department of the Veterans Affairs demanded from the bank the full refund of all funds since the veteran died prior to the end of the month. The bank then came after me since the VA did not have my information and I was the last to access the veteran’s funds.
Veteran spouses are being forced into situations during probably the worst time in their lives where they are looking at losing their houses and land because not only has their mate’s income stopped but also all the promises from the VA regarding survivor’s benefits has been found to be nothing by lies. It is unfortunate that the organization which was formed to serve our service personnel has in many cases degenerated into nothing more than a group of sleazy paper pushers who has perfected the art of double talk in order to get out of paying promised benefits.