Single mom struggles with the VA to get deserved benefits for her son

OKMULGEE, Okla. - Spending time coloring with her son looks like child's play, but Jackie says for years she's been locked in the financial fight of her life.  

"I have work, raising my children, took this child in. I've had him since a month and two weeks and he's 8 years old," she said.

Jackie adopted Lamar, the son of a 100% disabled veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart during his service in the Marines.

In 2010 Lamar's father died.  "His death was a complication of a heart attack."

Jackie says Social Security benefits for Lamar started within two weeks of application.

Not so when it came to the Veterans Administration.
    
Jackie says, "They would ask me for different forms, like I sent in my adoption papers. I sent in birth certificates, I sent in death certificates on his father. It just went on and on. "
    
For 21 months she made calls, submitted, and re-submitted paperwork, barely scraping by, "We go to the store and he wants and I can't buy and I can't explain."

Near the end of her rope Jackie turned to the 2NEWS Problem Solvers hoping someone would take up her fight, "It'd take a lot of stress up off of me."  

We contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs and Jackie was asked to submit another piece of paperwork.

Emails assured us the process was in motion. Then Jackie received notice from Lamar's private school for children with special needs. If Jackie couldn't come up with more than $2,000 in overdue tuition, Lamar couldn't go back.

The week after that Jackie's car was repossessed, "So I've been destroyed."

Then it happened. A phone call from the VA followed by checks in the mail.

Retroactive survivor benefits of more than $10,000 and set monthly benefits going forward.

Jackie smiles, "Good news, good news, Great news!"

Just in time for Independence Day Jackie and her son can celebrate finally receiving the support Lamar's dad paid for, in full.

VA officials say Lamar's claim was delayed and complicated by a nationwide court settlement requiring new consideration in light of 150,000 claims for Agent Orange exposure. Lamar's father was part of that claim.

A VA spokesperson provides this additional information on the issue:

The deceased Veteran's claim was considered as one covered by the Nehmer court settlement, which required readjudication of previously denied claims. Pursuant to a court order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, C.A. No. C-86-6160 TEH (N.D. Cal.), VA  provides retroactive benefits to certain Nehmer class members (Vietnam Veterans and their survivors) who filed claims for the three new presumptive conditions during the period from September 25, 1985, to the effective date of the VA regulation establishing a presumption of service connection for these diseases.  

After the Nehmer review, the previous denial of the Veteran's re-opened claim was sustained.  

Until the Nehmer review was completed, a final decision on other associated survivor benefits could not be addressed. The complexity of re-adjudicating claims previously denied for Agent Orange exposure required the painstaking review of existing evidence and development of evidence that, in some cases, was over 40 years old.  

Nationally, VA processed over 150,000 claims for Agent Orange exposure under the Nehmer provisions; a total of almost 230,000 Agent Orange claims were decided in FY 2011, including new claims.

Over $3.6 billion in retroactive benefits was awarded to Veterans or their survivors as a result of Agent Orange exposure.    

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