Nearly 11,000 surviving spouses of deceased veterans soon will receive lump-sum payments totaling about $24 million to correct an error in their VA benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The payments are required under a 1996 federal law that makes a surviving spouse eligible to receive the veteran's VA compensation or pension benefit for the month of the veteran's death.
The VA failed to implement that law properly in all cases, according to a VA news release.
"We understand the difference these funds can make for these surviving spouses, especially during the holiday season," said Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake.
An investigation into the issue also documented that more than 73,000 had been paid previously, said Peake, who said VA officials are still tracking down other eligible survivors.
Payments will be released to the nearly 11,000 survivors on Dec. 29.
Those most likely to be affected are surviving spouses who never applied for the survivor benefits following the death of a veteran. Surviving spouses of veterans who died after Dec. 31, 1996, are eligible. The department doesn't have addresses for many of them, which makes contacting them difficult.
VA has established a special Survivor Call Center at (800) 749-8387 for spouses who believe they may be eligible for the retroactive benefit. The Call Center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday. Inquiries also may also be submitted through the Internet at http://www.vba.va.gov/survivorsbenefit.htm.
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