VA waives $20K debt it claimed widow of WWI survivor owed - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

VA waives $20K debt it claimed widow of WWI survivor owed

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Three weeks ago we told you about a dispute between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the widow of a Pearl Harbor survivor.

The family says our story led to a resolution they never thought possible.

Florence Edson had been receiving survivor benefits since 2011. In January the VA sent a letter stating her benefits were being cut off and she had to repay more than $20 thousand because of an overpayment. The family was in disbelief. That's when FOX 7, along with Senator John Cornyn's office, got involved.

It's the light at the end of the tunnel for the Edson family. More than $20,000 the VA said the widow of a Pearl Harbor survivor owed, has now been waived.

"It's a huge relief. I don't know how to stress any more than to just say, it was one of the hardest thing's I've ever had to deal with. To have that part of it out of the way is a blessing," says Mark Edson, son.

The process was far from easy.

The fight between the VA and their 93-year-old mom, Florence Edson, happened during a time she is also fighting for her life. It took a toll on the family, causing strained relationships among siblings.

"To have this removed, our ongoing attempts to try to get my mother care and get it paid for, it removes a specter of this coming back to any one of the family members down the road," says Edson.

It was on March 24th when the family notified the VA that there was an error. Once our story aired, they received a response from the VA stating it disagreed and claiming there were no problems. After the family's second attempt, there was a resolution.

"The lines of communication were much clearer, the correspondence is going where it needs to go and it seems to be in a timely fashion," says Edson.

Imagine Ms. Edson's joy when she received the letter from the VA stating the family's request has been granted.

"Thank you to FOX 7 News and Senator John Cornyn's office for assistance in bringing it to light and facilitating communications with the VA," says Edson.

The VA is also offering the option of an appeals process, to review whether benefits will be reinstated.

It's something the family isn't sure they even want anymore.

"With the experience we've had in the past and the idea that benefits may be granted but then later terminated and requiring you to actually repay a huge lump sum, at this point, giving my mother's overall circumstances and where she lives, we feel there may be other avenues to pursue," says Edson.

It's been a situation they thought the widow of a Pearl Harbor survivor never deserved but are relieved they can now move on.

The VA reached out to us by email with this statement:

"Mrs. Edson has been granted a waiver of the debt on which you previously reported.

Pension is a benefit whose dollar amount is variable based on an applicant's income and certain expenses. Mrs. Edson's May 2011 application for survivor's pension was approved in April 2012 based in part on her claim of assisted living facility expenses. The next month, May 2012, she reported moving out of the assisted living facility and into a private residence. VA requested documentation of in-home care expenses in November 2012.

Although she has indicated she has higher expenses for in-home care as a deductible expense, she has never provided documentation of such in-home care at any point after leaving the assisted living facility. VA warned of adverse action in a November 2012 letter when it requested necessary documentation within 60 days or she was at risk of losing her monthly survivors pension retroactive to June 1, 2011. It is unfortunate that by the time VA took final action in January 2014, overpayments of $23,253 had amassed and we are pleased that the decision to waive this debt will resolve this matter in favor of Mrs. Edson.

We regret the delays in resolving the situation."

We showed the letter to Mark Edson but he says they never received warning in November 2012.

He says it wasn't until after he contacted the Texas Veterans Commission that he was alerted of any problem. That was this past January.

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