CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The family of a 93-year-old veteran in Charlottesville cannot understand why the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has taken more than 16 months to approve a pension application.
“It’s very frustrating. He deserves this. He earned it,” Dr. Bob Horn tells the Problem Solvers.
Like many members of the Greatest Generation, Bob’s father Jerome Horn did not talk about his experience serving in the United States Army during World War II.
“It wasn’t until he was in his late 80s, that he would sit down and talk about war stories. He couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast, but he could remember the names of everyone in his stories,” Bob recalls.
In 2018, New York City detectives picked up Jerry miles away from his Long Island home. The disoriented veteran did not have family nearby to come get him and ultimately rode home in an Uber.
“When I got up to NYC, the dementia was so bad that assisted living was out,” recalls Bob of the difficult decision to relocate his father from the family home of more than 50 years to a facility in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he could visit regularly.
Jerry’s around-the-clock medical care costs the Horn family about $6,000 a month, a sum on par with the average cost of facilities in the area. Jerry’s income is less than $2,000 between Social Security and a small civilian retirement plan.
Bob visited the Virginia Department of Veterans Services in October 2018 for assistance in filing paperwork for a federal pension through the Veterans Administration. He was told Jerry’s benefits would be about $1,900 a month once the application was approved.
But the application lingered for months. Bob provided additional information about his father’s living situation in early 2019. Staff members at Jerry’s care facility told the Problem Solvers they also filed supporting documentation to the VA last year. Since that time, the family has been unable to get any updates from the VA about the status of the claim.
“This is not the way it’s supposed to be,” said Bob.
The Problem Solvers reached out to at least a half dozen officials and advocacy groups on Jerry Horn’s behalf. Congressman Ben Cline called Bob Horn in late January to say his office had secured a favorable outcome in the case. The next day, Bob received letters from other federal officials and the VA stating the pension had been denied.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has not confirmed the favorable outcome to the Problem Solvers. The VA has also not responded to questions about the typical wait time for a benefits decision; why no one was able to provide an update for the Horns in the 16 months the application was pending; what, if anything, went wrong in the handling of Jerry Horn’s application; or if his family will be eligible to receive back-pay for benefits he never received.
Last Friday, February 7th, Bob Horn’s liaison at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services indicated the family could expect monthly benefits to begin in March but there is no timetable for back payments.
“My brother and I are fortunate enough that even though this is a severe financial crimp for both of us, we can do it. What about people who can’t do it?”
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