The Veterans Administration admitted in a letter to a member of Congresss that it wrongfully declared more than 4,000 military veterans dead over a recent five-year period, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
"During calendar years 2011 through 2015, VA terminated 2,057,790 awards due to the death of the beneficiary. During the same period, VA resumed awards for 4,201 of these beneficiaries after receiving information indicating the beneficiary was not deceased," wrote Danny Pummill, undersecretary for benefits, in the letter dated May 6.
Pummill said the VA was not able to explain the reasons for the errors because its computer systems do not keep such records.
"Although we are able to identify cases where benefits were terminated based on an erroneous notice of a beneficiary’s death and subsequently reinstated, our computer systems do not collect information on the cause of the errors (e.g., VA employee error, erroneous information received through a data-matching program, incorrect identifying data provided by a third party, etc.)," he wrote.
The letter came in response to a request from Rep. David Jolly, a Florida Republican, who requested the information in November following reports of veterans in his state having their benefits cut off following VA declarations they had died.
"These numbers confirm our suspicion, that mistaken deaths by the VA have been a widespread problem impacting thousands of veterans across the country," Jolly said on his website
on Wednesday. "It's a problem that should have been addressed years ago, as it has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down."
The VA announced in December it would change its practices and would begin confirming reports of deaths with family members before terminating benefits.
Jolly said he will ask for a new survey at the end of this year to see if the new practice was successful in 2016.
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