The family of a Marine who committed suicide after serving multiple combat tours said the Veterans Administration is demanding they return his final disability check for the month he killed himself.
The Marine veteran, who dreamed of going to medical school, received $400.93 a month in disability benefits from the VA until the time of his death in April, the Globe reported.
Less than a month later, his family received a letter demanding money issued to the veteran during the month of his death. The Globe reported that the first line of the letter said the VA was sorry to learn about Cpl. Reyes‘ death, while the second line asked for his last disability check back.
“The next 22 lines of the letter detailed why my brother is not entitled to his disability check during the month in which he died,” his sister, Irene Kaludi, told the Globe.
After his discharge, Cpl. Reyes graduated from UCLA in 2012 with a 3.8 grade point average, but continued to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and had become increasingly frustrated with the bureaucratic hurdles regarding his benefits, Miss Kaludi said.
“My brother was very high-functioning, despite his brain injury,” she told the Globe. “Even as he did so well at UCLA, he was struggling, trying to get help at the VA. Every time he went to the VA, it was red tape, long waiting lists for any services.
“Once, when he was suicidal, his girlfriend brought him to the VA and he got to see a counselor he actually liked,” she said. “But then that counselor transferred to San Diego, and Elias had to start all over with the red tape and the waiting lists. It was crazy.”
Jelani Lewis, who served with Cpl. Reyes, said he was outraged by the VA’s treatment.
“I can’t even tell you how that makes me feel, what they’re doing to his family,” Mr. Lewis told the Globe. “Elias served his country. But it didn’t serve him.”
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