In yet another blunder in the mountains of inefficiencies discovered in the Veterans Affairs Office, a grieving sister is sent her brother’s new benefits card after he committed suicide six month earlier.
According to an exclusive report by FOX News Latino, earlier this week Margarita Reyes received a disheartening surprise in her mailbox. It was an envelope from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Inside was a new Veterans Health Identification Card with a photo of her brother Marine Corporal Elias Reyes, Jr. It renewed his health benefits until 2024.
Unfortunately, the corporal had committed suicide only six months ago. He had been suffering from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Reyes said the Veterans Administration let her family down by not giving her brother the quality healthcare he deserved.
“I got his ID in the mail and it just brought everything back,” Reyes said. “It just was really upsetting.”
In a statement to Fox News Latino, the VA office said they sincerely apologized for the mistake.
“We express our heartfelt condolences and apologize for any distress she felt upon receiving the card,” said VA Spokesman Phil Walls.
By the age of 22, Elias had served twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. He began receiving services from the VA after serving three combat deployments between 2004 and 2008.
Reyes said the VA was informed right away of her brother’s death. Less than a month after Elias died, the federal government sent a bill to the family asking that they return his disability check.
“His death certificate hadn’t been issued yet and they were asking for money back,” said Margarita. The family eventually paid back in full, writing a check for $400.93.
“They are just not leaving us alone, it’s not bad enough they didn’t take care of our brother,” Margarita told Fox News Latino. “It’s hard enough that I lost my little brother, but it’s like I keep losing him over and over again.”
In 2012, Elias began having suicidal thoughts. He became so angry with the VA that he posted on his Facebook page, “I hate the VA with a passion.”
The lasted report from the VA stated about 22 veterans a day die to suicide. For Echo Company 2nd Battalion of the 7th Marine regiment, it is a reality for those who fought alongside Elias.
According to Echo Company Sergeant and Squad Leader Andrew Bird, in the five years since returning to the U.S., their battalion has lost nearly as many Marines to suicide as were killed in combat in Afghanistan.