Seminole, Fla. – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) admitted to Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., that it wrongly declared more than 4,200 people dead between 2011 and 2015. These decisions not only demonstrate complete incompetence at the VA, but have also negatively impacted the lives of veterans and their dependents by disrupting benefits.
“These numbers confirm our suspicion, that mistaken deaths by the VA have been a widespread problem impacting thousands of veterans across the country,” Rep. Jolly said in an email statement to PPD. “It’s a problem that should have been addressed years ago, as it has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”
In 2015 alone, the VA said it erroneously terminated the benefits of 1,025 veterans or persons receiving a veteran’s benefit. All of these individuals were in fact still alive. The VA numbers are laid out in full in a letter sent to Rep. Jolly from Danny G.I. Pummill, the the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Benefits. Mr. Pummill was responding to Rep. Jolly’s request for a 5-year report of mistaken deaths at the VA.
“Although we are able to identify cases where benefits were terminated based on an erroneous notice of a beneficiary’s death and subsequently reinstated, our computer systems do not collect information on the cause of the errors,” the letter stated.
Rep. Jolly, who is also running for his party’s nomination and ultimately to replace outgoing Sen. Marco Rubio, made the request last year after reports revealed a string of mistaken death cases by the VA in the Tampa Bay area. The representative of Florida Congressional District 13 repeatedly pressed the issue at hearings on Capitol Hill and in private.
While the Department of Veterans Affairs did announce last December they will adopt a new process aiming to avoid wrongly terminating benefits, Rep. Jolly wants assurances. He will be asking the VA for a new annual survey.
“I’ll be asking the VA for a new report at the end of this year so we can see the numbers from 2016. If the VA’s new policy is indeed working, this problem should be eliminated. If the problem persists, then Congress will demand further action,” Rep. Jolly added in his statement. “We simply cannot have men and women who have sacrificed for this country see their rightful benefits wrongfully terminated because the VA mistakenly declares them dead. This creates tremendous financial hardships and undue personal turmoil for veterans, many who are seniors relying primarily if not solely on their VA benefits.”
The VA says under the new guidelines, beneficiaries who are incorrectly declared dead will have an opportunity to correct the error with the Department before the VA takes any action regarding termination of monthly benefits.
Over the past 2 years, Rep. Jolly and his staffers helped a half dozen people get their VA benefits restored after they were erroneously declared dead.