Medical errors cause deaths. However, the VA has also “killed” many veterans who are actually still quite alive. Over the past five years, the VA has declared dead 4,201 living veterans. Such “death” also has the expected impact of canceling their benefits. These errors have arisen from employee mistakes or erroneous cross-checking of data by the VA’s computers.
These Living Dead have found that one day their benefits checks just stop coming. One veteran in Florida, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, was declared deceased not once but twice by the VA. He enlisted the help of his Congressman to prove to the VA that he was still alive, and his monthly benefits were eventually resumed. The first termination of benefits was due to a VA employee using the incorrect middle initial for identification, and the second instance arose because the VA failed to fully correct the first error.
Before terminating a veteran’s benefits, the VA automatically cross-checks names with the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File.” This system was implemented to prevent the cashing of benefits checks to veterans who are actually deceased. VA statistics show that about 400,000 people receiving VA benefits die each year or have their awards cancelled. Approximately two million veterans have died over the course of the past five years, while 4,201 were incorrect declarations of death. The VA has corrected the erroneous declarations, but has stated that it does not maintain records of the causes of the errors.
Last year, the VA began sending letters to newly deceased beneficiaries and waiting 30 days for a response prior to terminating benefits. Unfortunately, the VA does not have statistics on whether these letters have helped cut down errors.
These errors are the latest in the continuing problems with the VA. The carelessness on the part of the agency has had dire effects on vets’ income and health. At this point, nothing is surprising with this agency.