A veteran Naval officer in Indianapolis said she was falsely declared dead not once, but twice.
Officer Cynthia Keough-Scruggs now believes many officers are falsey declared dead after hearing reports from WISH-TV that another officer in Fort Wayne, Ind., was wrongly declared dead as well.
“I felt like it was a joke, like are you serious,” Keough-Scruggs said.
Her 16-year-old daughter received a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs in February 2009 stating that her mother was dead and that they needed the girl to provide a death certificate.
Scruggs said it took months of calling and visiting the VA to get reinstated in April 2009.
By July, she had another letter from the VA claiming she was dead and that her estate owed the federal government money. The VA claimed they sent Keough-Scruggs’ estate an extra benefits check after she died. But alas, she was still alive.
“That just tells me that there's massive gaps in the system, no one's tracking this, there's no triggers in place to identify this,” she said.
The VA told WISH-TV in an email that the cause of the mistake was human error during data entry.
Keough-Scruggs paid a hefty price for the mistake.
“So they went through without documentation stopped benefits, they stopped my insurance premiums, stopped my claims process, everything with no documentation,” she said.
She has service-related injuries in both of her knees and has been going through the long claims process with the VA. She worries that if data-entry errors keep labeling her as deceased, her claim will never be resolved.
The VA said there are several ways a veteran can be labeled dead, including a simple telephone call.
“I was really, really shocked that anyone can call in, I just find that so odd, that's just opening it up for people to be malicious,” Keough-Scruggs said.