Veteran replies ‘I’m not dead’ when notified that he is deceased


A retired disabled Army veteran received a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs stating he was dead. Ironically, only a few days after the letter was dated, he received a call to confirm an upcoming doctor’s appointment.

KFSM reported that James Fales was the one who opened the letter which was intended for his wife. It included information about death benefits and burial expenses and what the VA would cover.

“When you are pronounced dead, and you are the one opening the letter, it isn’t really a bad thing,” Fales said.

The letter from the VA started with, “We are sorry to learn about the death of James Fales and extend to you our deepest sympathy. We understand that the transition period following the death of a loved one is difficult.”

It continued by giving a brief description of the benefits Fale’s wife was entitled to. It also informed her that she was entitled to receive veteran benefits for the month of the Fale’s “death,” but if she was paid after that date she should return the money.

Fales is currently receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and an injury to his ankle at the Veterans Heath Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville. The VA called him on January 12 to remind him of a doctor’s appointment. However, the death benefit letter was dated on January 8.

Calling the number intended to report the death of a veteran, Fales contacted the VA to inform them that he was not dead.

“They asked to verify who I was calling about, and I told them ‘By the way, this is me!’” Fales said. “And the only response I got on the phone was, ‘Oh boy.’ So now they are processing me to put me back as alive in the VA system.”

Even though the couple is sure the VA will fix the problem, his is uncertain how it will affect his current medical care. “The effect that the error is going to have on my benefits, and my health care, until they get it straight; I have no idea,” Fales said.

The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks issued the following statement:

“We do apologize and regret that this error has occurred, and want to reassure our Veterans that we will work diligently to assist them in any way we are able to in order to resolve the issue.”

Fales and his wife were able to find some humor in the situation. “Since the government says I’m dead now, can I stop paying taxes?” he jokingly asked.

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