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.