VA wants veteran to pay back his benefits | News
ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Heather Levesque has been Jamie Levesque's wife, friend and companion for years and now she is fighting for his military benefits.
"We got a letter on January 22 that said in a month we are going to lose our benefits," she said.
Jamie Levesque receives $1,000 a month in disability income.
Veterans Affairs is threatening to withhold it for a year to reimburse Uncle Sam for what was given to Levesque in 2008.
"We will lose our home because this is the only income that Jamie has," said Heather. "He has been unemployed for approximately two years."
In 2008, Levesque was given an honorable discharge and was paid $19,000, before taxes, as a separation benefit.
"Now the military says you owe us the money," said his wife.
The VA said the separation benefit was an over payment and Levesque's mental disorder is not service connected.
"He never had any mental illnesses before the military at all," said Heather Levesque.
The couple has been married eleven years and believes the VA is wrong to take back what was given to them.
"It has been very hard and currently Jamie is in the hospital because of major depression and the stresses," said Heather Levesque.
There are letters back and forth between them and the VA, and at one point they enlisted the help of former Congressman Cliff Stearns.
Heather Levesque said they had requested a hearing to show their evidence, but she said it was canceled.
Then the couple received a letter this month that a decision has been made.
"We'd like to make sure that he doesn't lose his monthly money," said Heather Levesque, "and we're trying to see that the military would see the depression and anxiety that Jamie suffers is military connected."
We spoke with Collette Burgess at the St. Petersburg Veteran Service Center. She said via email:
"The Department of Veterans Affairs seeks to ensure that veterans receive the full amount of benefits to which they are entitled. We are reviewing the specifics of Mr. Levesque case and will be contacting him to discuss his claim."
Burgess added that generally speaking, the VA has certain obligations under law. She said:
"The Department of Defense may pay lump sum separation pay to the departing service member. If a veteran is granted disability compensation by the VA, VA is required by law to recoup the after tax amount of separation pay. VA withholds the amount of VA compensation payable until the full amount of separation pay has been recouped."