Retro-active benefits


My brother is MIA, Vietnam, 1973. He married a citizen of Vietnam while he was in Vietnam. They were coming home in 3 weeks when his Helicopter was shot down. A "search" took place for his wife and we were told they could not find her.

In 1997, I found her myself during my 2nd trip to Vietnam. She told me that when my brother did not come home for 2-3 days (they had an apartment in Da Nang while preparing for their departure) she went to the main gate of the base. Two officers cam out and consoled her, told her that hewas dead, they were sorry and then they sent her away.

So, in 2001, I finally got DIC for her. I have been through hell and back trying to get retro-active benefits for her. She did everything right, the officers should have treated her as the wife of a fallen soldier because that is what she was. I am not bitter or angry with what went on then, I am upset now because we have been passed off and told that she should be paid but no one knows who should do it.

Our Senator’s office has the case now (for 2 years) and we are waiting to see what happens now.

Any pointers you may have would be greatly appreciated.


There won't be any retroactive benefits.

The VA system is structured by laws that are in turn filtered to be rules and regulations. In cases like this, it's usually pretty clear how it works.

Allow me an example...

Say a fellow gets married. Going into the marriage in 2000 he is receiving a 50% disability. In 2005 he files for and receives an increase in his disability rating and he is awarded 70%. At that point it hits him that he never did tell VA he was married and for 5 years he hasn't collected a dependent's allowance.

So...he sends in his marriage certificate and waits for the retro pay.

Finally the letter comes. He's shocked to learn that he gets one year retro from the date he told VA of the marriage. It doesn't matter that he was married 5 years, the VA responsibility goes one year and that's it. Often they don't even do that and pay only from the date of filing.

In the case you cite to me there likely is no evidence of what happened to the spouse when she went looking for your brother. She says 2 officers came to talk to her and that was that. I believe her but that doesn't help. I doubt that the 2 guys who spoke with her had any clue of what they should have done or how things work with VA. There was a war going on and they had a lot of things to do besides spend time with that.

I'm not trying to be mean or uncaring, I just see things how they are, not how I'd want them to be.

You tell me "She did everything right" and I'm afraid that's not correct. Just like those officers though, I'm sure she didn't know what the right things to do would have been. The law would require that she contact the US State Department at the US Embassy in Saigon and file her claim with the VA. The State Department acts as the VA on foreign soil.

Those officers didn't know that. She didn't know that. It's a tragic situation but Vietnam gave us plenty of those.

I see no realistic hope that you'll ever see any more benefits than what you have today. It upsets me to have to tell you this but I often find myself in that position...if nobody else will tell you the truth, then it falls to me. I can't imagine why the Senator's office has had it for 2 years. Usually, if there is to be any action from a Congressional Representative it will happen very quickly. I can't
recall ever hearing of a 2 year delay by any Senator's staff.

Your pathway through all this must be through the VA. Even a Senator can't tell VA what to do. They don't have that authority.

The process is that you file and then are awarded the benefit or denied. If denied you appeal, usually to the Board of Veterans Appeals. If BVA denies you find a lawyer to take it the next step, to the Veterans Court. If denied there you may go higher up the ladder.

To go out of that pathway or miss any steps will surely lose the case.

I know it's not what you hoped to hear but it's the reality. Good luck.