Disabled Campbell County veteran’s VA benefits restored

Investigations

A disabled Campbell County veteran has had his VA benefits fully restored following a WATE 6 On Your Side investigation.

Mike Sanders is a Gulf War-era veteran. The former Army sergeant badly injured his back during his service and is now unable to work. From 1987-1994, he served as a research lab assistant with the Chemical Corps, and later as a field medic.

Two weeks ago, WATE reported that Mike Sanders was losing his benefits after earning 18 cents in salary in 2017. The VA took quick action to correct a mistake.

Previous story: Campbell County man’s VA benefits cut due to 18-cent income

Mike Sanders left the Army in 1994 with service-connected disabilities, so bad he’s been unable to work for the last four years.  Last September, Mike Sanders was told by the VA there was information from Social Security he had earned income from 2017. 

It was eighteen cents according to a W-2 form he was sent in late December. Part of his disability was cut on January 1. His family’s health care and educational benefits ended. However, now they’ve been restored.

“I received notice from the VA, a phone call, the morning after the story ran,” said Mike Sanders.

He and his wife Melissa said they were stunned and surprised to hear from the VA so quickly. 

“They said they would be able to correct the case and get my benefits restored that day,” he said.

The latest letter from the VA says his dependents’ educational assistance has been restored, Mike Sanders’s unemployability benefits are retroactively restored, and his family health coverage is continued and restored.

“Very happy that you stepped in on our behalf. I’ve never seen the VA work so fast, ever,” said Melissa Sanders.

US Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office also made an inquiry to the about Mike Sanders’s unique case. An email sent to the senator said Mike Sanders was at fault for the mistake.

“SSA reported wages for him in 2017. Since Mr. Sanders did not explain the reason for wages, his benefits were reduced,” read the letter.

n response to the VA’s letter in September, he checked “No,” he had not been employed over the last year. Mike Sanders said a VA agent told him that was his mistake and that he should have called them to explain.

“If that box is checked ‘No’ on that form, and they have something from Social Security that you earned wages, they automatically reduce or deny the claim. They also said that the regulations they had concerning this were, ‘poorly written,'” Mike Sanders said. 

With the issue settled, the Sanders family says they trust what they experienced won’t happen to another disabled veteran’s family.  

Because Mike Sanders’s is classified as totally disabled and unemployable, the VA classifies him as unable to work. That means he’s eligible for special disability compensation plus other benefits. Before it was restored, he was losing about $1,900 a month in disability.

What he found out is the 18 cents earned in 2017 had been a carryover from when he last worked in 2014. He was also told when he sent the original papers to the VA last September, the reviewer was in Washington state, and apparently, the whopping 18 cents in salary did not alert anyone, so no calls were made to seek answers.

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