VA Revoked Benefits of 115 Veterans it Wrongly Declared Deceased

VA Secretary Robert McDonald
VA Secretary Robert McDonald / AP
December 22, 2015

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs said that it wrongly declared 115 veterans deceased and as a result revoked their benefits for a period of time.

The Washington Examiner first reported the admission, which was made by the agency in a letter to Rep. David Jolly (R., Fla.) after the lawmaker pressured the agency for information regarding several veterans in his district who had been incorrectly declared dead and deprived of their benefits.

The VA wrongly declared 115 veterans across the nation dead during the nine-month period between July 2014 and April 2015, the agency admitted in the letter. To prevent such errors in the future, the agency said that it is developing a policy that would involve using an automated system to declare veterans dead based on information from the Social Security Administration’s database.

Currently, employees manually designate veterans as deceased.

The new policy would also mandate that VA officials send veterans determined to be dead a letter before revoking their benefits. This will allow family members to confirm the death or, if the determination is incorrect, the veteran can alert the agency to the mistake.

Jolly demanded in November that the VA review the system that led the agency to wrongly declare six veterans in his district dead and suspend their benefits. He told the Examiner Tuesday that he applauded the VA for taking steps to prevent such mistakes in the future.

John Cooper, press secretary for Concerned Veterans for America, told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement Tuesday that the revelations further expose problems with the government agency’s bureaucracy.

"More than anything, these cases highlight how the VA’s bureaucracy has a real impact on veterans. While the VA has promised to make changes to ‘ensure’ these mistakes don’t happen again, its track record of broken promises make that guarantee less than credible," Cooper said. "Instead of insisting on procedural changes, the VA should embrace real accountability to ensure veterans are treated with care and respect."

The government agency has undergone scrutiny following last year’s scandal involving fake wait lists at VA hospitals that lead to the deaths of dozens of veterans. Since, multiple inspector general reports have pointed to continued mismanagement at the VA and poor care at its facilities. Indeed, an independent assessment released earlier this year concluded that the VA’s network of hospitals needs "system-wide reworking."