Veteran's Widow Required to Pay Back Benefits

For seven years, Frieda Green received benefits from the government after her husband, a Vietnam War veteran, died from service related heart and lung problems, and now the Department of Defense wants the money back.

Green is being required to pay back $41,000, and was only given 45 days to do so. Green’s husband was a 33 year Air Force veteran who opted to pay monthly premiums for supplemental survivor benefit coverage. When Green’s husband died, Green became eligible to receive either her husband’s pension or a monthly benefit from the VA.

She chose to receive the VA’s monthly benefit which is a program that is similar to annuity that gives the benefit to the surviving spouse.

Green also received $41,000 from the government sponsored insurance policy purchased by her husband. Shocked by the large sum of money, Green called the Department of Defense.

“I called Air Force finance,” Green stated, “and they said, ‘No. That’s your money.’ I was afraid the money wasn’t mine and they made a mistake.”

However, Green is now being asked to pay back her benefits after remarrying. Although unbeknownst to many surviving spouses, this part of the federal law affects nearly 57,000 military spouses and their children.

“Here we are taxing the groups that have done the most for this country,” stated Norb Ryan, a retired Navy vice admiral and the president of the Military Officers Association of America. “If I were in the Pentagon, I’d be awfully embarrassed by this situation.”

A letter from the Air Force to Green stated: “Because Jerry died from 100 percent service connected disabilities, all of the money he paid for survivor’s benefits is to be refunded.”

Green was given 45 days to repay the $41,000 she received in benefits, however, began seeing wage garnishments two weeks later. She is now being deducted $577 from her monthly military benefit check.

Photo thanks to elycefeliz under creative common license on Flickr.

17 thoughts on “Veteran's Widow Required to Pay Back Benefits”

  1. It is about like a veteran that has a less than 30% disability rating. In Reserves has to pay all the money back for being a drilling Reservists and has VA service connected disability for example 10% for a knee or a back. Once a year the VA will take back that disability money back for time served as a drilling reservist. I think a service connected veteran should receive a disabilty/ compenation. Also should receive drilling/AT mobiilizations pay. It is not like the Veteran is 100% service connected. They are actually less than 1/3 disabled and are willing to serve in the job they came in the military to do.

  2. I want to know if I will be paying back benefits if I am remarried now. My ex and I were married for 18years but he only served 5 years in the army before getting out on disibility. He now receives a 100% and were divorced been 5 years but VA was still sending my portion of 125.00. He says he reported to VA when we got divorced and sent them the decree.

    1. the VA will not will not let him have money for you an if they do they will take back an he will have so many days to pay it back

  3. Dollie,

    While there are policies about this, it seems that the VA is never sure what it wants you to do. It will take these things into consideration. Of all strange things, one of the most important determining factors is your age when you remarried. When you say “your portion of $125” if they are sending it directly to you, you should check to see if this is part of your divorce decree. If they are sending it to your ex husband, then it is his responsibility to make sure he is being paid the appropriate amounts. Even if he passes the money along to you.

  4. I have a somewhat similar situation as Ms. Green. My husband served in the Korean War and was honorably discharged. When he died and I was making all of the required calls to notify the required people of his death, one of my calls was to the VA. During the course of the conversation, the man I was talking to told me that I was entitled to Veterans’ Widows’ Benefits of $600.00 a month – which were deposited into my checking account for about 18 months. Then the VA decided they wanted their “loan” back, and I told them that I did not have the money to give them. They turned me over to a collection agency, and they harass me daily. I’ve stopped answering my phone because I simply cannot handle the stress and neither can my high blood pressure. They also told me that they are going to garnish 15% of my Social Security Widows Benefits which isn’t much to start with. I am still a widow, will be 65 in January, cannot work due to multiplying healthy problems, and have no income except what I get from social security each month, and have no health insurance of any kind. It goes without saying I have a few life-saving drugs that I HAVE to take, and some of them take a hefty portion of my monthly check. Is there anything I can do – or anything anyone can do FOR me – to ease this burden? If I could get enough money together, I would file for bankruptcy. ANY information and/or help you can provide for me would be so appreciated.

  5. Margaret,

    A good course of action may be to find any documentation that the VA sent you upon the start of the Widow’s Benefits. This could be any letters confirming your upcoming receipt of the money, confirming your eligibility, or anything similar. Find any paperwork you signed, if any, and scour it for small print.

    If you at no time whatsoever signed anything committing yourself to repayment, find your local Congressman. The situation with this article is that Ms. Green remarried, which is written into the policies as a contingency that would stop her benefits. If no such contingency has happened on your part, you have a much better case to ask for help.

    I am, of course, not a lawyer, and I very much understand that lawyers can be expensive. As a last resort, you may try to find a lawyer that will hear you out and agree to take the case, either pro bono or with the deal of getting paid out of any resulting payments to you from the VA.

    1. We have many vetrans in our flamiy as well, my husband being one.I pray you get answers soon for your little boy.Reginathe Crazy Nuts Mom

  6. Gerald W. Ragland

    I am a veteran recieving TDIU. Also qualify for SMC i/a/w 38 U.S.C. 1114 (s) and 38 CFR 3.350 regarding approxximately (9) various claims. VA will not tell me why these claims, some over 10 years in open status, what action they anticipate, what valid reason for delay, and if/when they plan to start paying benefits. From a recent rating sheet, I assume each claim has been aapproved. I have recieved the silent treatment from VA, for many years. The Lou(327) region probable has becomes irritated at me for initiating vertical contacts within VA chain of command-no one responded as yet. Possible silent disrespect, may prevail. I am a 21+ year Veteran, with two tours in the Agent Orange enviornment of Vietnam.

  7. madeline gerrity

    my husband served for 4yrs in the navy 1941-1945. He passed away in 1975 from cancer I as his widow would like to know if i am entitled to any benefits, at 83 am finding it hard to keep up with the times.Any
    info would be a great help
    Madeline Gerrity

  8. kimberly maxwell

    dear Gerald:
    Do not wait any longer
    . It is the VA way to out wait you until you die or give up. You need to be proactive while you aractive while you are waiting wrive or go visit you congressman or woman see or write your sentor. It makes a bigger empack for them to see you and for them to get to know you. It is harder for them to turn you down or say no. If you cannot go send them a nice picture of you with your family or your pet. Be a vey nice squeeky wheel. Be polite of their time and very easy to get off thier phone with them when you are done. GET A STATE SERVICE OFFICER THEY TRAIN THE REST.

  9. My first husband was KIA 2005 and I was receiving DIC but I remarried this year October 14 to active duty soldier. We went immidiately to DEERS to update information and the worker told me all was complete and by “deleting” me as a dependent from my passed husband the va would automatically stop payment. I called the VA 8 times was on hold for hours and disconnected for months. Now i got a letter stating I owe them back pay til october 1st. I wasn’t even married then! When I finally got a VA rep on the phone a month ago the woman told me they would discontinue benefits and it was error. I don’t have 4 grand to send them. I’m pregnant and not working. Please help I do not know where to start. I am tired of being lied to on phone calls through the VA.

  10. My husband was a Korean war Veteran. He recently passed away and I am too young to receive his social security. I applied for widows benefits and they told me it could take anywhere from 6 to 9 months to get the check. When I do get the check, do I just get the $681.00 or do they pay back pay from the time I applied? Thank you.

    June Lawson

    1. if your hurting for money call them they helped me get mine get back pay an depends on how much he you should get 55% of his va if you were married to him for 8 yrs an was 100% disabled for those yrs prob will rec more

  11. judy striegel

    they tell you if you get va comp from va after your husb deceased then you can not dont marry.. the VA has been very good to me an for 10 years I took care of my handicap husband double legs 3xs a week 5am taking him to dialysis 40 miles away from our home.then hosp neglected him an he recd bedsore an no atty will fight for letting him die.Id much rather have him back an help him for another 10 years,i miss him i love him.Its been almost 2 yrs an i still cry everyday missing him.

    1. Priscilla you should get comp money as long as your husband was 100% disabled,an married to him for at least 8 yrs.Your children should get nothing,although one of my husbands sons went to college an the VA sent him a $7000 check,why we don’t know hes on his own in late 20’s responsible for himself so if they tell him to eventually send back he will have to an that was 2 yrs after my husbands death.I was married 10 yrs an my husband died then but we didn’t get VA check until 2003 I filed for it it 2002 an my husband received back pay $79,000.I keep all VA papers as the VA sent me way over $50,000 6 months after his death an now get over $1470 va comp from his plus I get champva insurance medicare pays first then champva all my hosp an Dr are paid I pay nothing /I can get my meds free but prefer not to be mailed to me walmart charges me $4.00 a prescription.My husband lost his legs from diabetic an diabetic from agent orange had to prove when he was in Vietnam where he was stationed an date an if his parents were diabetics he couldn’t collect an they were not diabetics.Bind a fida I believe is how you spell it if your children had this disease then they could collect his benefits.I also can go to college full time an the VA would pay $900 a month for my classes.I know I’m lucky just glad in 2002 where I read in the American Legion magazine agent orange can cause diabetic.If you have other questions go to VFW or American Legion an they can help guide you,just know if you get VA Comp from your deceased husband an remarry they will stop your benefits guaranteed.

  12. Read today july 2013 legion magazine that widows receiving Va Dic can remarry an keep VA Compensaion DIC/Wonder about socially securirty could they take his away from me an then have to take my own?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *