After returning from service in Iraq, a California man has been on a two-year campaign to prove to the Department of Veterans Affairs that he is not dead.
U.S. Army veteran Marco Hernandez served two tours in Iraq. When he returned he found himself caring for his elderly father. After his dad died in 2011, he called to notify the VA so the agency could suspend his father’s health insurance payments.
Not long after that call he realized there was a problem.
“I pulled my credit report, and I was laughing when I saw it because it said, 'items affecting your credit: deceased, deceased, deceased,’” Hernandez told NBC-Los Angeles.
Although the agency managed to get his father’s payments stopped, somewhere in the vast bureaucracy, amidst the paperwork, Hernandez was also listed as having died.
“I called the VA to report that he was dead, and someone at the VA did all the paperwork correctly," Hernandez said. "Unfortunately, somebody made a mistake and about three weeks after my father passed away, my relatives received some paperwork saying I was the one who passed away.”
As a result, he said, his bank account has been frozen and credit cards cancelled. He claims the ordeal has also caused him to miss out on receiving thousands of dollars worth of his own benefits from the VA. His numerous phone calls have done little to resolve the problem.
“Every time I try to do something people come up with different things that I'm supposed to be doing,” Hernandez said.
Unfortunately for veterans, stories like Hernandez’s are all too common. The department has been rocked by negative reports recently, including the vast wait-listing scandal that forced the May 30 resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. He was replaced by Sloan Gibson who is serving as secretary of the department on a temporary basis, according to The Washington Post.
Following the scandal, news agencies began reporting various bureaucratic failings of the department. In June, an Alabama news station, WSFA, reported an 85-year-old Korean War Veteran, was awarded $100,000 in benefits. The veteran, Willie McCall, reportedly battled the VA for 56 years to receive the benefits that numerous doctors’ diagnoses said he was entitled to.
Hernandez, with any luck, won’t have to wait so long to have his benefits reactivated. A VA spokesperson told the local news it was working with the veteran to resolve the situation.
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