An 89-year-old veteran who survived the D-Day invasion is accusing officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs of cutting his monthly veterans benefits from $300 down to $6 a month.
Joseph Teson, of Watervliet, N.Y., said the VA cut his benefits to recover over $3,000 in overpayments sent to him by the department. He said he never noticed the overpayment.
"I don't know how they did it, but they did it," Teson told local station WNYT. "I didn't say nothing. I just let it go. Everybody else complained but me."
He received a letter in 2013 notifying him that his "entitlement to compensation and pension benefits had changed.” That change resulted in the overpayment.
"Since you are currently receiving VA benefits, we plan to withhold those benefits until the amount you were overpaid is recouped," the letter dated, June 9, 2013, added.
"They're taking money from my father, and he deserves (the money)," said Teson’s son, Michael. "He fought in the war for it. They're giving him $6 per month. He can't live on that.”
Teson and his wife are still getting by on pension and social security benefits and a little help from their children.
Megan Lutz, a spokeswoman for the VA, said the department wants to be sure that Teson and other veterans get the benefits to which they are legally entitled.
"We are presently looking into the specifics of Mr. Teson’s case and will be reaching out to him to clarify the details of his changes in benefits," Lutz said.
The VA has been the target of a growing list of criticisms lately. Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testified before a Senate panel early this month amid accusations that at least 40 veterans in Phoenix died while waiting for appointments at the city’s VA health facilities. Those allegations have led to investigations being launched in six other states, according to CNN.
In February the Senate failed to pass a Department of Veterans Affairs Bill that would have expanded benefits for service members and repealed a military pension cut for future troops.
Critics said that such an expansion would only lead to increased wait times.
“I don’t know how anyone who voted ‘no’ today can look a veteran in the eye and justify that vote,” Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion, told the Washington Post at the time. “Our veterans deserve more than what they got today.”
Teson might feel the same way but he said he is content to to ride out the temporary deductions.
"What can I do?" he said. "They’re bigger than me, so I’ve got to go along with them.”