After seven months of delay, the Department of Veterans Affairs finally approved World War II veteran James Alderson’s pension benefits last week.
But it was not a cause for celebration or relief for Alderson, whose life’s work was the farm supply store he founded near Chico after returning home from the Battle of the Bulge.
The 89-year-old veteran had died three months earlier in a Yuba City nursing home.
“My father was a very proud person,” Alderson’s son, Kale, said. “Whenever I saw him, he would ask if I’d heard from the VA and whether his money would hold up. It really took a toll on him.”
The VA’s inability to pay benefits to veterans before they die is increasingly common, according to data obtained by The Bay Citizen. The data reveals, for the first time, that long wait times are contributing to tens of thousands of veterans being approved for disability benefits and pensions only after it is too late for the money to help them.
In the fiscal year that ended in September, the agency paid $437 million in retroactive benefits to the survivors of nearly 19,500 veterans who died waiting.
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