Pension claim for payments due a deceased vet

Pension claim for payments due a deceased vet

Joined: 07 Sep 2017, 18:15

07 Sep 2017, 18:37 #1

In June of 2016 my father, a WWII vet, was notified that he had been awarded a Non-Service Connected Pension, based on aid and attendance, effective April 22, 2016.  As part of his claim, it was stated that he suffered from dementia, so that a fiduciary would have to be appointed to receive the money.  With assistance from his family, he applied for a fiduciary (my sister) to be appointed, but before that process could be completed, he died on July 10, 2016.  Some monies were paid, including two month's worth, one of which was reclaimed because it was for the period after he died.  According to my calculation, at least one, and perhaps two, month's worth of payments were never received.

Last August, I submitted form 21-601 on behalf of his estate in an effort to claim the payments that were not received.  In reply, I received a form letter, 20-8992, stating that the claim had been received and all necessary information was in hand, but, “as we have a great number of claims, action on yours may be delayed.”  I wrote six months later to inquire about the status of the claim (with a cc to my congressman), and received a similar response in return.  (Basically, don't call us, we'll call you.)

So my question is, have others been successful in getting decisions in cases like this?  And if so, how long did it take?  Right now, I'm just trying to get his estate settled.  Even a reasonably stated denial would probably be acceptable.

Thanks,
Tom
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Joined: 24 Nov 2017, 23:03

24 Nov 2017, 23:17 #2

I am a Army Brat, my father served in Vietnam 64-66, received a honorable discharge and he we are today and he recently passed on 8/23/17 due to service-connected illness. I filed a claim for his Comp rating to be reviewed, dad held to 60% for many years but I felt he was entitled to more based on his age and worsening health conditions. I filed in 11/2015, he was awarded 11/2016 but the VA held on to his retro pay, I found out that the VA still has his 5 figure award and I called to find what I had to do to get his benefits he did not get prior to his death. For me it is personal because I worked hard and he suffered a lot to win his claim. I was told to file a 21-847 which made no since to me, but the VA and Title 38 makes not logical sense, yet I was denied because I did not file a 21-601 despite being told to file the latter form. Can someone tell me if I should have file both the forms I am mad as hell because the run around and sad because I am still grieving my father for whom I was primary caregiver to 24/7 for two years, watching him deteriorate before my eyes so quickly while I sat helpless and alone. Please help sad, confused and alone...
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Joined: 27 Nov 2003, 23:33

24 Nov 2017, 23:53 #3

This isn't really a non-service connected pension question, per se; but I can maybe offer some info.

Whenever a veteran is deemed to be entitled to monetary benefits, be it pension or compensation, and is also determined to be incompetent, payments are started effective the month of the award action with all retroactive benefits being withheld pending the appointment of a fiduciary.  Since your father passed away before those retroactive benefits could be paid they are now payable as an accrued award.

These accrued benefits will be paid to the person or persons who paid for the funeral expenses from their own funds.  If the funeral expenses were paid by the deceased person's estate, the accrued benefits will be paid to the estate.  If there are any unpaid creditors associated with this the unpaid creditors have dibs on the accrued benefits unless the creditor signs the waiver on the VA Form 21-601.  The total amount paid will be the amount of accrued benefits or the amount of the funeral expenses, whichever is the smallest amount.

This is a routine type claim that VA sees every day.  There is nothing unusual or rare about a claim for accrued benefits.  If there is a problem it is that they are handled by one of the three Pension Management Centers rather than by the Regional Offices since the PMCs handle ALL death claims, pension or otherwise. 

It's been 12 years since I retired from VA and almost 2 since I retired from my VSO job so I'm a little out of the loop now; but during my time on the job the Pension Management Centers always tended to take longer to process claims than did the Regional Offices so it doesn't surprise me that yours is taking so long.  At the time I left my VSO job it was taking them about a year to get to these things.  Hopefully, they have trimmed that time down considerably by now.

They will eventually get around to this and any accrued benefits due will be paid.  My suggestion is to just be patient.

Cruiser
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Joined: 24 Nov 2017, 23:03

25 Nov 2017, 03:29 #4

Cruiser wrote: This isn't really a non-service connected pension question, per se; but I can maybe offer some info.

Whenever a veteran is deemed to be entitled to monetary benefits, be it pension or compensation, and is also determined to be incompetent, payments are started effective the month of the award action with all retroactive benefits being withheld pending the appointment of a fiduciary.  Since your father passed away before those retroactive benefits could be paid they are now payable as an accrued award.

These accrued benefits will be paid to the person or persons who paid for the funeral expenses from their own funds.  If the funeral expenses were paid by the deceased person's estate, the accrued benefits will be paid to the estate.  If there are any unpaid creditors associated with this the unpaid creditors have dibs on the accrued benefits unless the creditor signs the waiver on the VA Form 21-601.  The total amount paid will be the amount of accrued benefits or the amount of the funeral expenses, whichever is the smallest amount.

This is a routine type claim that VA sees every day.  There is nothing unusual or rare about a claim for accrued benefits.  If there is a problem it is that they are handled by one of the three Pension Management Centers rather than by the Regional Offices since the PMCs handle ALL death claims, pension or otherwise. 

It's been 12 years since I retired from VA and almost 2 since I retired from my VSO job so I'm a little out of the loop now; but during my time on the job the Pension Management Centers always tended to take longer to process claims than did the Regional Offices so it doesn't surprise me that yours is taking so long.  At the time I left my VSO job it was taking them about a year to get to these things.  Hopefully, they have trimmed that time down considerably by now.

They will eventually get around to this and any accrued benefits due will be paid.  My suggestion is to just be patient.

Cruiser
Cruiser
First an foremost thank you for your input it isn't desirable to hear but it is consistent with the VA's ideology of hurry up and wait, I am the veteran's  biological daughter, I am filing as my father's surviving offspring not for reimbursement for anything. I was his primary caregiver, POA, authorized payee  for 2 years and his final expenses were paid by me, the VA has given me the Burial Benefits in 9/2017 at which time I submitted a paid receipt from the funeral home. And so there are no creditors associated with his final expenses. As for medical expense, He was treated at the VA at 100% rating, and his hospice paid by Medicare insurance for which Dad paid premiums monthly, regrettably my Dad only lived 2-3 hour upon coming home from the hospital the day he transitioned.

There is no excuse for this delay, I am facing extreme hardship due to my inability to work for two years while caring for my father, it has been 3 months yesterday since dad departed and am I expected to make final arrangements, seek employment and grieve within 30 days? the VA cares less about the Veteran's surviving family it is plain and simple, this is my stance until proven otherwise. We tried admitting him to memory care or nursing homes so I could work, yet that proved unsuccessful because of his combative nature, he was deemed a danger to  others so no facility  would accept him. I have taken steps to escalate this matter from the top down. My father served in Vietnam, he was directly exposed to Agent Orange and his death was associated to his service all of which I am stating is documented. Patience and time isn't a luxury for me regrettably, I have no income, I took care of my father solely on my own and what little savings I had is exhausted and I feel like I am serving in a war to be honest. 
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Joined: 27 Nov 2003, 23:33

25 Nov 2017, 19:52 #5

Aseyeam wrote:I am the veteran's  biological daughter, I am filing as my father's surviving offspring not for reimbursement for anything.  
Unless you are a minor payment must be based on reimbursement.  The person or persons who paid the final expenses or any unpaid creditors get priority over adult children.  This is the law.
I was his primary caregiver, POA, authorized payee  for 2 years and his final expenses were paid by me, the VA has given me the Burial Benefits in 9/2017 at which time I submitted a paid receipt from the funeral home. And so there are no creditors associated with his final expenses.
Being the primary caregiver or authorized payee isn't a factor.  The burial benefit that you received was also based on reimbursement.  If you paid the total amount of the funeral and burial expenses VA can reimburse you for the remainder of the expenses that you paid up to the amount of accrued that is payable.  Like I said, they will reimburse you either the total accrued amount or the amount that you paid, whichever is less.  You can't get more than you actually paid from your own funds no matter how much accrued is available.

There is no excuse for this delay
Whether one calls it an excuse or something else, the fact of the matter is that nobody at VA is trying to intentionally delay action on your claim.  They simply have an overwhelming workload and only so many resources to handle it.  If they haven't got to yours yet it's because there are older claims pending and they are working them in order of receipt. 

I know that VA employees are working mandatory overtime and have been doing so for quite some time.  I retired from VA because I got tired of all the overtime.  I probably worked as many 6 day weeks as I worked 5 day weeks during my 30 years there.  I know that since I retired my old VA office expanded from 175 employees to over 400 and they had to rent a second downtown office building just to have room to put everybody.  This has happened at VA offices all across the country and VA now has about 340,000 employees, and they are still struggling to get a handle on the massive workload.

The employees don't like the workload and the delays any more than you do.

Cruiser
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Joined: 07 Sep 2017, 18:15

26 Nov 2017, 02:49 #6

Cruiser wrote:
Aseyeam wrote:I am the veteran's  biological daughter, I am filing as my father's surviving offspring not for reimbursement for anything.  
Unless you are a minor payment must be based on reimbursement.  The person or persons who paid the final expenses or any unpaid creditors get priority over adult children.  This is the law.
I was his primary caregiver, POA, authorized payee  for 2 years and his final expenses were paid by me, the VA has given me the Burial Benefits in 9/2017 at which time I submitted a paid receipt from the funeral home. And so there are no creditors associated with his final expenses.
Being the primary caregiver or authorized payee isn't a factor.  The burial benefit that you received was also based on reimbursement.  If you paid the total amount of the funeral and burial expenses VA can reimburse you for the remainder of the expenses that you paid up to the amount of accrued that is payable.  Like I said, they will reimburse you either the total accrued amount or the amount that you paid, whichever is less.  You can't get more than you actually paid from your own funds no matter how much accrued is available.

There is no excuse for this delay
Whether one calls it an excuse or something else, the fact of the matter is that nobody at VA is trying to intentionally delay action on your claim.  They simply have an overwhelming workload and only so many resources to handle it.  If they haven't got to yours yet it's because there are older claims pending and they are working them in order of receipt. 

I know that VA employees are working mandatory overtime and have been doing so for quite some time.  I retired from VA because I got tired of all the overtime.  I probably worked as many 6 day weeks as I worked 5 day weeks during my 30 years there.  I know that since I retired my old VA office expanded from 175 employees to over 400 and they had to rent a second downtown office building just to have room to put everybody.  This has happened at VA offices all across the country and VA now has about 340,000 employees, and they are still struggling to get a handle on the massive workload.

The employees don't like the workload and the delays any more than you do.

Cruiser
Thanks to all who replied on this thread.  Your explanation of the workload that VA employees are under is most helpful  The issue has been resolved to my satisfaction, but there were some quirks along the way.

My understanding now is that accrued benefits are paid only to minor children, a spouse, or in reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses for funeral expenses, etc.  It is my understanding that funerals expenses that were paid by the deceased or from the deceased's estate are not reimbursable.

So here's the quirky parts.  I first filed form 21-601 on August 14, 2016.  I received in reply, on August 25, 2016 a form letter (20-8992) explaining that the VA had a heavy workload and that action on my claim might take some time.  On February 21, 2017 I sent a follow-up letter asking when it would be reasonable to expect a decision.  I sent a copy of that letter to my Congressman.  I then received a response (essentially a duplicate 20-8992) dated March 6, 2017.  There was no subsequent communication to me from the VA.

By November 6, 2017, my patience had run out, and I was in the process of wrapping-up the estate, so I placed a call to the toll-free number listed on the letters (20-8992).  To my great surprise, I was quickly connected to a representative who explained that the VA had replied to my earlier letter with a determination letter on March 9, 2017.  I never received that letter.  After I established my identity, the representative agreed to send me a copy of the March 9 determination letter.  I reiterated my mailing address.  She also mentioned that my Congressman had been copied on the March 9 letter.

By November 13 I still had not received the promised copy (as of November 25 I still have not received it), so I paid a visit to my Congressman's local office.  They located the copy in their files within a matter of minutes and made a photocopy for me.  The gist of the determination letter was that since there were no children under 18, no surviving spouse and no unreimbursed expenses other than those paid by the estate, the VA would not be distributing any accrued benefits.

I accept the determination as a matter of law (if not logic), but I am still perplexed at the VA's (or USPS's) seeming inability to get a letter to me at my address.  (My father's estate also uses that address.)  I don't know if it's related in any way, but on December 27, 2016 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs sent a letter and IRS form 1095-B to my former address which I had not used in over nine years.  It was subsequently forwarded to me by the current occupant of that address.  The address had never been used by my father (although it had been used, over ten years ago, by my son who has a similar name) nor by his estate.  I have no way to determine if any other correspondence to me was incorrectly sent to that address.

Tom
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Joined: 27 Nov 2003, 23:33

26 Nov 2017, 05:05 #7

TomHackett wrote: It is my understanding that funerals expenses that were paid by the deceased or from the deceased's estate are not reimbursable.

The gist of the determination letter was that since there were no children under 18, no surviving spouse and no unreimbursed expenses other than those paid by the estate, the VA would not be distributing any accrued benefits.
That isn't true.  When the expenses are paid by the estate or from the funds of the deceased, reimbursement is suppose to be made to the estate.  I'm not sure why they would tell you otherwise.  This was even spelled out in the instructions included with the VA Form 21-601 that you submitted.

Did you submit a copy of the Letter of Testamentary from the court appointing you the Executor of the Estate and clearly state on the 601 that the bills were paid by the estate?

Cruiser
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