Plan ahead and research veterans benefits

December 14, 2012 

Veterans need to be aware of the benefits available to them and I would urge every veteran and his or her spouse make themselves aware of those benefits through research via the Internet or visiting a local veterans office. In the event you begin receiving any sort of benefits from the VA, you must ask certain relevant questions such as “Who can represent me in the event I become incapacitated to the extent that I cannot represent myself before the VA?”

Reading Susan Myers' Dec. 4 letter (“VA should respect power of attorney”) reminded me of my continuing dilemma with the VA regarding the benefits my mother received for more than two years but were abruptly stopped without notice or explanation.

After months of attempting to have the VA send her mail to my address (yes, I provided the VA with a copy of my POA), nothing was ever changed. Through a visit to the local VA office in Conway, they provided me with VA Form 21-4138 along with the suggested wording to make an official request to name me as my mother's official fiduciary. The form was completed, signed and dated by my mother, and mailed to the VA that day. This was on April 13, 2010. My mother passed away in August 2010.

Unfortunately, according to the VA, her request to appoint me as her fiduciary was all for naught.

Please allow me to quote from their most recent response in their letter to me dated May 10, 2011:

“Because the beneficiary is deceased we cannot accept any income information or medical expense information because she cannot sign it. All claims submitted to the VA must be signed by the beneficiary unless there is a fiduciary formally appointed by the VA, in which case the fiduciary would sign all documents on the beneficiary's behalf. The VA does not recognize civil power-of-attorney appointments and cannot accept documents submitted that are signed by the POA. Our records do not indicate that a VA fiduciary was appointed for (your mother) prior to her death.”

Therefore, according to the VA, it is not just that my mother officially signed and dated her request to appoint me as her fiduciary in April 2010. It is also that the VA did not “formally appoint” me as her fiduciary by the time she passed away in August 2010.

I continue to work towards my claim on behalf of my mother's estate through the Federal Tort Claims Act under which I filed in May of this year. Supposedly, one is to receive a response within six months of filing such a claim. I am not surprised that I have not heard anything.

The writer lives in Conway.

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