Updated December 31, 2005








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Vets, Widows Missing Out on Aid

By James P. Tucker Jr.


Nearly 2 million veterans or their widows are missing out on up to $22 million in pensions from the U.S. government, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has had only limited success in locating them, leaving millions of federal dollars unclaimed.

Widows are the hardest hit. The VA estimates that only one in seven surviving widows who likely qualify for a pension actually get the monthly checks. And participation in the program is declining, according to a Knight Ridder analysis of VA


The reason for the low participation, a VA study found, is that poor veterans generally “are completely unaware that the program exists.” And the government certainly is not locating and informing them about it.

“Veterans simply don’t know about it,” said Despina Hatton, who runs a senior law program for residents of Washoe County, Nev., that helps veterans or their widows obtain the benefit.

Rose Davidson, 72, is the widow of a World War II sailor who lives in Sparks, Nev., on $9,732 a year in Social Security benefits. She is frail, legally blind, suffers from dementia and is in need of regular assistance at home. She could be eligible for $1,608 more a year under the VA’s formula—an income boost of 17 percent.

But her daughter said neither she nor her mother had ever heard of the VA pension. “I didn’t have a clue,” Linda Doty, Mrs. Davidson’s daughter, told Knight Ridder. “And at one time, when her thoughts were altogether, my mom was pretty good at learning all the options that might be open to her. When you make so little, $100 a month is a lot of money.”

Those vets and widows who believe they may be eligible for the pension can contact the Veterans Administration toll free at (800) 827-1000.

(Issue #1/2, January 2 & 9, 2006)

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