An Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran who was mistakenly declared deceased is fighting to keep his benefits.
When veteran Eric Deravin discovered his benefits were cancelled after an error declared him deceased, it seemed as if the former serviceman was fighting a losing battle until he reached out to a local elected official for assistance.
Eric Deravin III, an Allerton resident who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, shares the same name as his late father, Eric Deravin, Jr., a retired 36-year Army command sergeant major who worked at the New York City Department of Corrections at Rikers Island for over 20 years.
When Deravin’s father passed away on May 10, he informed the VA and the New York City Employee Retirement System of his father’s death.
Both organizations asked for his father’s information which Deravin provided and about a week later he received notices stating he and his father were dead.
When the retired Army lieutenant colonel submitted his father’s death certificate to Social Security, all of his own benefits were cancelled and for months, he did not receive any money from neither the NYCERS or the VA.
Deravin explained his father’s birthday and Social Security number are completely different from his own and this was all the information he was required to give the two agencies.
The veteran requested a check to be mailed from NYCERS on June 1, but there was no follow through with Deravin’s request.
He filled out and sent proof of life forms to the VA, NYCERS and Defense Finance and Accounting Services to prove he was alive and entitled to his benefits.
He received signed letters from Social Security stating that his own number was still valid.
“This is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,” Deravin said. “They’re getting this wrong on the people who are still alive.”
After countless phone calls to NYCERS and the VA which went nowhere, Deravin decided to reach out to Senator Jeff Klein.
Deravin contacted Senator Klein’s office for assistance and the senator’s office immediately contacted NYCERS who informed the office that they would not be able to send Deravin a check until July 29.
Working continuously with NYCERS, the senator’s office was able to get the check disbursement sped up and were told by NYCERS that they would be mailing checks for May and June to Deravin.
“Protecting our military service members and ensuring those retired from active duty receive the benefits they are entitled to is critically important,” Klein said.
“If I didn’t have money in the penny jar, this would be very harrowing,” Deravin expressed. “Senator Klein and his people did a wonderful thing and they were very proactive in helping with this issue.”
Deravin explained his medical benefits were returned to him this past July 24 and he received a check from NYCERS on July 30.
However, he is still waiting to receive his New York tax refund, his VA check, Army pension check and having his store credit reinstated, adding he will have to wait until the end of this month to see if everything is back in place.