Local vet to VA: Pay me already!

Throggs Neck veteran Ivan Colon says Veteran Affairs delayed his benefit checks from October to March, which made paying rent on his Samspon Ave. home a stretch.
Photo by Ben Kochman

A Throggs Neck veteran who served his country wound up having to go to an elected official after his country failed to serve him.

Ivan Colon, who served in the U.S. Navy, Army and National Guard for 23 years, spent six months trying to get the Veterans Administration to restore his disability payments after he shifted bank accounts in October 2013 and the VA put the freeze on payments.

The bureaucratic battle raged on monthly, with Colon continuing to give the VA both his old and new bank account numbers, but to no avail, he complained.

He finally wound up reaching out to state Senator Jeff Klein’s office for help to untangle the mess.

VA; ‘wait and see’

Due to lingering effects from an ankle injury he suffered in the Navy in the late 1970s, Colon had been receiving $130 a month since 2011 —not a lot, he says, but enough to supplement his salary as an investigator with the AIG insurance company to help out with monthly bills on his and his wife’s Sampson Avenue home.

When the checks stopped coming after the bank account shift, Colon said he’d call the VA each month, trying to clear up the new bank account situation, but was told simply that the department was “reviewing” it.

“They told me to wait and see,” he said. “But I didn’t know what they were reviewing!”

Boost from Klein

Fed up with the payment lag, Colon turned to Klein, who has a district office nearby. Klein was able to put heat on the VA to speed up the process, and by March Colon’s disability checks were back in the mail. The VA even paid off all of the payments they had missed over the last six months, he said.

“They took care of it right away,” said Colon of Klein’s office, “and I can’t thank them enough.”

“When you’re on a fixed income, going without monthly payments can have a profound impact on your day-to-day,” said Klein. “ I’m pleased we were able to put an end to this runaround and get Mr. Colon, someone who has sacrificed so much for our country, the relief he deserves.”

VA: ‘working hard’

The Department of Veteran Affairs, when contacted for this story, was not able to provide particular details of Colon’s case.

But Jim Blue, regional director of the VA’s office of public and intergovernmental affairs, did send over this statement:

“We are investigating the circumstances regarding his situation and will follow up with Mr. Colon to see that this matter is fully resolved,” he wrote. “VA holds in the highest regard the sacrifices made by our country’s Veterans and are working hard to make sure that they and their family members receive the benefits to which they are entitled in a timely manner.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail her at bkochman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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