ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida congressman said the Veterans Administration cut off the benefits of more than 4,200 people nationwide after they were wrongly declared dead.
Representative David Jolly, a Republican, said they were ‘‘very much alive’’ and their benefits were resumed after the VA looked into their cases, which happened between 2011 and 2015.
Jolly raised the issue with the VA in November on behalf of a group of veterans in the Tampa Bay area. He said Wednesday that the agency has changed its protocols for confirming deaths.
Danny Pummill, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the VA, acknowledged mistakenly declaring the 4,200 veterans dead in a May 6 letter to Jolly. The agency’s computer systems don’t track the causes of each error, but Pummill wrote that they could have resulted from incorrect data provided by another agency, human error, or computer issues.
The VA tightened its protocols for confirming deaths in December. Now, when officials think a veteran is dead, the department will send a letter to the address and request confirmation of the death from a surviving family member. If the VA doesn’t hear from the family — or from a veteran erroneously believed dead —
only then will the department terminate payments.