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VA mistakes 6th Tampa area vet as dead; David Jolly demands answers

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas County GOP Representative David Jolly has written a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, informing him that the VA’s recent declaration that former Navy veteran and current Pinellas County resident Michael Rieker is deceased is inaccurate, and that Rieker is “very much alive.”

Mistakes can certainly happen, but Jolly notes in his letter that this is the sixth case  he knows about directly of the VA inaccurately labeling a veteran dead and stopping  his benefits.

“One case is unacceptable, but six is outrageous,” Jolly writes, adding that, “suffice to say, if this is caused by human error there is clearly an inadequate system of checks and balances in place. If not human error, the current system is flawed.”

The problems at the VA have been long and numerous for years, but came to a head more than a year ago with the scandal over veterans’ long waits for medical care and VA employees’ falsifying records to cover up those delays.

Jolly says he initially contacted McDonald back in February of this year when mistakes within the VA led Mary-Ann Clough to go months without receiving the Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) she was owed. He says that within the past 18 months, his office has handled at least four similar cases of the VA declaring someone dead when they actually were alive.

Jolly also asks that in addition to requesting details about Rieker’s case, he wants a report on how many other similar such incidents have taken place during the past five years.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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