My Story - Debbie Burak

Discussion in 'Share Your Personal Experience' started by vetadmin, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member

    I'm often asked the question "why "I have taken this mission on. It is a 9-year journey of how I arrived at this point but as with many things, it is the climatic ending of a movie or a good book that has the most impact and drives the point home. In this case it was the ending of my mother's life that became so pivotal for me.

    I spent the last 10 days of her life at her bedside in Hospice, and watched how this life we take for granted slips quietly out of a room. How our survival instincts give way to resignation and acceptance that this fight is over.

    I looked into the eyes of my dying mother who continuously asked if her check from the VA had come so that there would be money to bury her instead of cremation. The answer was always the same........No. Even in her weakened state she would have known if I had lied and said yes. I couldn't do that to her or to me.

    My parent's time in assisted living began as a result of a fire that rendered them homeless in a matter of minutes. My mother had been trapped in an 8ft enclosed patio with no exit, and at the last minute two angels came to her rescue. One jumped inside the patio while the other straddled the wall and together they pushed and pulled her up and over the wall to safety.

    Monies had long been exhausted for their care, and they had not planned well enough to bear the burden of so many years in the care of others. So while her question about the check coming from the VA may seem insignificant, it would have allowed us to honor her burial wishes. Her fear of facing another fire was more than any of us could endure.

    I thought about how different this ending could have been, how different things would have been for both my parents if we had known about Aid and Attendance from the beginning.

    $160,000 would have gone a long way to have made their lives better, and to help lessen the financial hardship placed upon our family over 9 years. I thought about all the inquires to the VA for benefits for them, and repeatedly being told there was nothing when all along there was.

    My mother was awarded the pension after months of struggling to get it. Unfortunatley, she died before the VA released her check. To have the pension awarded and be denied to the very end, to the last breath, yes, it was a defining moment in my life.

    One of the last things my mother said to my sister and I was to "promise her that we would make certain that she was really dead before we let them put her in." We promised and we made sure.

    I also promised something else that day, and that was to make certain that she did not wait in vain. That there would be a greater good that would come from this sorrow. If one veteran and their family have better choices, then she made a difference.

    I prefer to believe that this is her gift to give, and I am simply the messenger.
  2. kathianne

    kathianne Newbie

    Thank you for sharing your story. It brought me to tears. I'm so sorry that the VA did not come through for your mother - it is a tragedy. Thank you for what you are doing to inform others! I get busy with "frontburner" issues in my life (mainly, my young children!), but how I would love to help others someday, especially the elderly, get the VA help that they deserve, but are denied. So much despair could be avoided!

  3. martinmm

    martinmm Newbie

    Dear Debbie -- How I ached and cried when I read your post. My how difficult these issues are -- not only having to deal with our loved ones and their final years as care-givers, but then having to deal with the horrendous VA system and the many hurdles we must jump over in order to get our loved ones the benefits to which they are entitled -- the benefits for which they helped to defend our country.

    I am sorry for your situation, but it certainly struck a note with me--as cremation was my only alternative for my father with his financial situation. BUT, let me remind any reader of this post of a nifty option I discovered during the funeral preparation process-- there are funeral homes who rent caskets. My father had always wanted a service in his full dress uniform. It took months to piece together that uniform--through Ebay finds, ordering from catalogs and on-line shops and the military to replace his stolen medals, his military uniform, dress hat, shoes, tie--shoes, etc. I found a funeral home willing to let me rent a beautiful casket for 2 hours for the service, and then the other funeral home switched things for transport to the crematory. Although it was still quite sad, I was able to honor HIS wishes and it certainly made me feel better about the choices I was making for my dearest Daddy.

    May God reward you for all you are doing for Veterans and their families. My gosh, your site had every form, every bit of information I needed all in one place to give to my dear friend who now faces trying to get those benefits for HER family members.

    God bless you, Patty
  4. lhutch

    lhutch Newbie

    Debbie, we are waiting over a year. They approved my step dad for A&A benefits in May 08, but they have nbot released the funds-fiduciary issue. They have made no attempt to contact my mother or father to arrange for an interviews. Deplorable organization!!
  5. lhutch

    lhutch Newbie

    Debbie, what do you suggest to get funds released?. My step dad was approved for A&A benefits in May 08, no appeal on our part on the competency issue-my mother is sharp as a whip, she can handle the funds. Senator Kyl's office in AZ has requested their response. They have made no effort to meet with them after they called my mom and step dad in early Sept. Numerous calls/etters from me and an agency assisting us........any suggestions!

  6. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member


    I can sympathize with your situation and frustrations. I am surprised that your Senator has not been more successful in getting a reply. This type of contact generally pushes things to the forefront. At this point you might want to consider contacting Senator McCain's office for any assistance they can lend. Two other options are to contact the Secretary of the VA and the White House. Given the current transition, I don't know how affective the White House would be.

    I would start with pushing on Kyl since he is already involved and aware of the circumstances. You need to keep knocking on doors until someone opens one. I would allow at most 3 weeks with each attempt for a reply. From what you have shared, there is no reason to withhold from May and to not have set an appt in the last 6 months.

    Please keep us posted.
  7. PinkPunch

    PinkPunch Newbie

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. My MIL did not correctly plan for her future either counting on "my social security" check to carry her through. What a laugh that is when you have had 3 strokes. We had to move her into assisted living for now and I don't know what I would do without this site and the help.

    I think that you are a blessing to others with this. I collected the last piece of paperwork yesterday and now we move on to getting it to the VA.
  8. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you for kind words, and I am so glad that this site and forum have been helpful to you. Our hope is that you will share the site with others who may also be able to benefit.

    We wish you the best of luck with the application process, and hope you will keep us updated on your progress.
  9. Joycet

    Joycet Newbie

    Thank you for your efforts on this web site. It has been so helpful to me both in providing information and support. I just want everyone to know that they should be persistent because success is possible.

    We filed in January, received letter of elibility(but incompetent) in May. I immediately sent in the request to become fiduciary and in August met with the field rep, and just received the official letter from the VA. I expect to receive the first check with the retroactive payments in the next few weeks.

    When I called and spoke with a VA rep in Philadelphia about filing the request for fiduciary status, she indictated in a subtle manner, that I should call - often - to check the status and I did.

    I also contact our state senator.

    Best of luck to everyone who sincerely needs this benefit and is still waiting.

  10. jpfister

    jpfister Newbie

    There was great solace for me today in finding this sight. I have been fighting a battle for my father, an 86-year old WWII veteran, since June of '09 when he received a letter stating some of the benefits he had been receiving for the past year and a half were being discontinued. Loss of the these benefits is detrimental to my father's health, well-being and quality of life. The social worker who first got the benefits approved for dad has moved on to another position and the new social worker is interpreting the criteria differently than the first. At the St. Louis VA Medical Center, I appealled the decision with the Chief of Staff's office but they sent the same social worker who denied the benefits in June out to reevaluate in November. Perhaps if they would have sent another unbiased person the outcome would have been different, but for some reason, they did not. The same person who felt dad did not qualify in June decided she was right and he did not qualify in November. In my attempts and the VA Medical Center physician attempts to get the benefits dad once had reinstated, we now face an more complicated issue of fighting a declaration of incomptence. The doctor thought he was making a good case to get my dad services for a home health aide to give him showers twice a week. In doing so, he filled checked a box on a form that indicated my dad was not able to handle his own finances. So now, not only was his claim for reintstatement of benefits denied, he also risks having his compensation frozen while a fidicuary is appointed. This would be devastating because he lives in an assisted living facility that cost $3,200 per month. In summary, I have been consumed and overwhelmed with these matters these past months. It give me comfort in knowing I am not alone in my fights with the VA. Thanks for the company.
  11. Debbie: I went to a **** seminar, met with one of the representatives who asked me qualifying questions, and then he called a law firm which wants to charge me $850 to file for Aid and Attendance for my 87 year old mother. Then I found your website, and must say Thank you, Thank you. Between your advice and reading the problems that others have had, hopefully I can do this submittal myself and get a check eventually. It sounds like Mom may be dead before we ever see a check, but I guess it's worth a try.
  12. romalynn

    romalynn Newbie

    Thanks for this post, I was given a name for a person associated with this group as well finally in late May, after trying to get some help thru the DVA. Anyway took forever to connect with him finally on the phone and email. I had already filed online as instructed by someone at the VA. He said since I had already filed he and his company could not help me. My friend, Ed, has not assets to do anything with at all. Only needs help. So I have heard back now from VA and the asking for the rest of his information. Trying to get the doctor to fill out the physician form at VA now which may take an arm and a leg as well. Not as simple as the form the private physican filled out to get him into the assisted living home mid May. However he has an appointment now on July 9 for a geriatric doctor in the American Lake Medical Center in Tacoma, WA. Hope I get it filled out correctly. As well I have learned how to do the expense report now from Debbie's help I do believe.

    When I learn this Debbie, rest assured that I will do my best to get this information out in my area without charging monies for assets arranging so to speak.

    and I pray that due to the fact that this dear old man, almost 91 will get the help he needs and deserves.. thanks to all of you here
  13. Janie

    Janie Newbie


    I read your story on how you got involved (through your Mother) and started this most helpful site. I just started this journey of trying to learn and apply for Assist/Aid for my Mother this past month (she is 92). She unexpectly was admitted to the hospital and for the first time had to go to a nursing home for physical therapy (was to stay there 20 days but I could not stand it and got her out early and home. We live together and has given all her life to helping others and myself and two older brothers. I wrote you yesterday and you promptly wrote me back and have given me so much help and it has given me much incouragment to move forward. I hope I can one day provide help to others too. You are the best angle of them all!!! Thank you!!! Janie
  14. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member


    Thank you so very much for your kind words.

    I hope that the information proves to be helpful.
  15. Janet E

    Janet E Newbie

    I am just today beginning to look into VA benefits. Your site is simply amazing. I have learned SO much and realize I have a very long road ahead of me, but I wanted to take a moment out to thank you for taking the time and immense effort to compile everything we need in one spot. My heart just breaks when reading your story, but you have fulfilled your promise to your Mom - you haven't helped "just one" have helped many, many, many of us.
    Thank you again from yet another daughter just trying to do what's best for her Mom.
  16. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member


    Thank you for your very kind words. It truly is an honor to know that my mom did not wait in vain, and that a greater good did come from our experience.

    I'm glad that you found the site, and hope that we can be a resource for you and help you through this process.

  17. rockingma21

    rockingma21 Newbie

    What a wonderful and helpful site! You are a great resource for us who are navigating this VA system!
    I need HELP!!!!
    My 83 yr old father was a WWII and Korean War Vet. In 2003, with the help of a local VA Rep, he had applied for VA pension for him and my 76 yr old mother. Their only income was $1050/mo from Social Security and they had no resources. They were paying $1,800/mo for out of pocket medical expenses, so they were going back $750 every month. They had been borrowing money and taking out loans and maxing out credit cards for years to stay afloat. The VA sent a denial notice stating that they were over income for benefits and they explained how they calculated his income and expenses. The VA considered my parents income of $1,050/mo but they counted the expenses as $1,800 a year instead of a month. The VA Rep got the copy of the denial and he never told my dad that he could appeal it and I don't think that the Rep reviewed the decision either. My dad passed away completely destitute in November, 2010 and the only thing my mother was left with was an overwhelming amount of debt. I filed a surviving spouse A&A claim on 12/15/10, and VA has approved her for benefits. However, I wanted to know if I could file a request to reopen the original claim or file a CUE, as it was clearly a mathematical error and easy to prove the mistake. I have all of the original paperwork, application, denial etc... Thnx!
  18. rockingma21

    rockingma21 Newbie

    Re: My Story

    Does anyone have any advice for my situation with my father's originally denied claim based on the mathematical error?
  19. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member

    Unfortunatley, too much time has passed for you to be able to appeal. You have up to a year to make an appeal, and if none was filed in that timeframe, you have no recourse in going back on the error.

  20. rockingma21

    rockingma21 Newbie

    Error on my father's denied claim...

    I did a ton of research and if there was an error made on an application for pension by the VA, then you can file a Clear and Unmistakeable Error (CUE) Claim. Unlike an appeal, there is no deadline to file a CUE and it can be filed anytime, however, you can only file it once, so you need to make sure that you do it correctly the first time and you have to make clear why you believe that the VA had made an error on denying benefits. You should also make sure to get access to the vet's entire military record and review it prior to filing the CUE claim.

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