7 On Your Side helps get burial benefit check for US veteran's family

Nina Pineda Image
Wednesday, July 3, 2024
7 On Your Side helps veteran's family get burial benefit check
Nina Pineda reports that the family's check had first been stolen and the replacement went missing.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A military veteran's grieving family has been fighting an uphill battle.

They laid their loved one to rest last July.

As a veteran, he was entitled to certain benefits including funeral expenses.

But then the check and the replacement check got stolen and delayed.

They needed reinforcements so they asked 7 On Your Side to rally.

"I made sure that when they were presenting the flag they gave it to his daughter," said LeVerda Shellman, the veteran's sister.

LeVerda Shellman's brother Lawrence, a United States Army veteran, was buried with the full honors of a service member.

"I can't believe he's gone, it was a shock," she said.

A fall caused a traumatic brain injury that eventually took his life, the veteran died last July.

LeVerda was his conservator and had taken out life insurance.

$10,000 covered his burial, but Larry's little sister wasn't prepared to wage a yearlong battle for his military VA death benefits which covered transporting her brother's body.

"How were they able to cash this?" 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda asked.

"That's what I'm trying to find out," LeVerda said.

The check the VA mailed to her covering almost a thousand dollars got stolen.

"Somebody supposedly signed it. There's no bank mark, there's no signatures, so how was it cashed?" she said.

She filed for a replacement check last fall.

"This was for transportation of the body and in November they said five to 10 days, December 6th I said I never received," LeVerda said. "They issued another check on January 25, but still never came to my house. I said I keep putting on a tracer, but the check's still not getting to my house. I'm still waiting." She said.

Upset over red tape, LeVerda listened to her other brother.

"Once my brother David said, 'You need to call 7 On Your Side,' I got a brother David too, everybody got a brother David!" she said.

7 On Your Side contacted the Veterans Administration, and VA press secretary Terrence Hayes responded directly and direct deposited $895.

Hayes sent a statement saying:

"VA has worked with Ms. Shellman throughout this issue to ensure she received all benefits owed to her. We are glad this situation is resolved and will continue to work with her if there are any other issues. We offer our deepest condolences to her and her family for their loss."

The hard-working nurse can rest assured, that her brother's final resting place received all the honor he deserved.

"He's buried in Pinelawn next to the veterans, my parents and grandparents are in the veterans, and I go visit him," she said. "Call Nina Pineda, send an email, she will definitely get on the case!"

She was really grateful to close the chapter on this grief and said now she can celebrate his life and his service to our country.

Many families of U.S. veterans don't apply or even know they may be eligible for funeral and burial expenses to be covered.

The latest data from the VA is from 2020 during COVID-19 and shows burial benefits are underutilized for 58% of veterans.

Families did not receive any assistance with funeral expenses, gravesites, or transportation to final places of rest.

The VA has streamlined the process.

You can learn more about how to apply here: https://www.va.gov/burials-memorials/veterans-burial-allowance/

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