Veteran's widow seeking fair treatment from the government

NEW LONDON - Honor was the most important principle to William Vincent Clevenger, who was disabled while serving as an Army medic in Korea. Now his widow hopes someone in Veterans Affairs will recognize that and act honorably themselves. Ellen Clevenger, his widow, has been waiting since September for her payments as a widow of a disabled veteran to be reinstated. Not only were her payments cut off when her husband died, the government froze her bank account and Social Security payments until she repaid the amount her husband received for September.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

NEW LONDON - Honor was the most important principle to William Vincent Clevenger, who was disabled while serving as an Army medic in Korea. Now his widow hopes someone in Veterans Affairs will recognize that and act honorably themselves.

Ellen Clevenger, his widow, has been waiting since September for her payments as a widow of a disabled veteran to be reinstated. Not only were her payments cut off when her husband died, the government froze her bank account and Social Security payments until she repaid the amount her husband received for September.

He died on Sept. 23, 2007, but she had to give back the full amount of his disability payments for the month. She still hasn't been able to finish paying for his funeral.

"I don't want to apply for welfare," Ellen Clevenger said. That was the suggestion of one of the representatives from Veteran's Affairs she's reached on the phone in the five months she has tried to get her survivor's benefits started.

Since her husband's retirement, the couple had been living on his disability and retirement payments. William Clevenger was 78 when he died and Ellen is 72.

She said even though her husband was entitled to full disability after a mortar explosion destroyed most of his vision and hearing, he found jobs when he returned to New London because he believed he was capable of supporting his family.

As the widow of a disabled veteran, Clevenger is entitled to more than $1,000 a month. Veterans Affairs representatives in Cleveland originally told her she wasn't eligible for any benefits, then said it would take 60 to 90 days for the paperwork to be processed and her payments to start. She since has been told it could take several months or up to a year. "The story keeps changing," she said.

"I just don't know how long I can hang on," she said. Since her husband's death in September, she has been using credit cards to pay bills.

"I don't want anybody feeling sorry for me. I want to honor my obligations," Clevenger said. "But the government needs to honor theirs. I'm getting to the point of desperation."

Her husband volunteered to serve as a medic in the Korean War and served three years before his injury. She said he would tell her about the nightmares about the war that woke him at night.

"He said, 'You don't know what it is to see a guy's brains blown out. You don't know what it's like to have to cut a guy's leg off,'" Clevenger said. But even with the horrors he witnessed, she said, her husband said he would go back and serve again if he was able.

"His concern was the soldiers he could help," she said. "He was 100 percent for the service."

Richard Carlisle, who runs the Norwalk office for Veterans Affairs, said he is also frustrated with the system.

"They have a backlog that the VA won't recognize," he said. "It makes my job extremely difficult."

He said there is no doubt that William Clevenger was a disabled veteran who was honorably discharged.

"Why isn't it over the day she walked in there?" he asked. "It is all in his file. The rules and regulations are absurd. She's met all the requirements."

Carlisle said he tries to help local veterans and their families get through the maze of federal regulations, but he also hits roadblocks.

He said the only recourse many veterans and widowed spouses have it to contact senators and representatives. "That's the best shot they've got," he said.

Comments

me (Anonymous)

Good luck to Mrs. Clevenger. Its ridiculous what the government puts people through. Best bet would be to contact a Senator or Representative.

vietnam vet (An...

the stinking VA sucks!!! Lousy govT always getting in bullcrap wars we shoundn't be in Help this woman!!! She deserves better!!

good luck, thin...

We will keep you in our prayers, terrible how our goverment takes care of their military members and their families!!

flustrated

this is a terrible way to treat our military families,how much more can this lady take? this is an election year,lets start taking care of our people, this is awful i'm so ashamed of the way this widow has been treated

Granddaughter o...

My grandma deserves this money!!

Please, everyone keep this in your prayers and hope for the best.

VA Employee (An...

We support you 100%. I know how frustrating it is. I see it everyday. I dont work in the main hospital, but instead under a different branch. I talk to veterans on a daily basis and my thought and feeling is this; your husband gave everything for my freedom, and I will give any amount of my time in a day to help them out. I do it on a daily basis. I feel that I owe the veterans I deal with at least that much.

Please dont give up. Please contact your VISN office, your regional office, your nearest medical center directors office. Ask to speak with the directors at each of these places. I know its frustrating as it is frustrating for me to get the help that I feel the veterans truly deserve.

me (Anonymous)

They freeze her bank account and social security? That is ridiculous! This poor woman. I wish her the best and I hope that she gets her money very soon. I would also contact my Senator and/or Representative. Good Luck Mrs. Clevenger!

photo27th

I am "Gulf War" vet. and thank god I wasnt injured or disabled there... becuase this is how the "Greatest country in the world" treats the ones who gave the most to make it that way! It makes you think the VA is being run by one of our wonderful huge insurance company's...

Shame on you VA...!

army widow

Mrs. Cleavenger, I am a recent widow myself, and am just getting into what you are already experiencing. I,too just received my letter from the VA wanting their money back. My husband died on January 29, yet they want the entire month's pay back. I may be entitled to that money anyway, but I have to send it back to them first, which seems a bit redundant. My husband was receiving 100% disability pay due to his unemployability. Now I,too am wondering how long it will take for the government to get off it's butt! I really think this needs to be put out there for the public to scrutinize. I am now definitely going to let the television stations know about this. Maybe that might get a ball rolling.

swiss family

i wish you well mam.. and thank you very much for the sacrificing that you and your husband did for all of us Americans in our time of need. i am appauled at the way that you are being treated.. and i want to donate my "refund " check to you, once i get my rebate,,, so that you can pay some bills, and maybe get some groceries.. i want you to feel like me, and anyone else who would like to donate to you.. has your back.. just as you and your husband once had ours!!

Dave Rimmer, Li...

What an absolute bloody disgrace. Having said that this story is no different from veterans from over this side of the pond being treated in the same fashion by our government as you guys over there.....time to oust the powers that be on both sides of the Atlantic. Good luck Ellen, seems your neighbours are supporting you even if your own government aren`t.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

TTFN Nos da

Mattsherman

http://www.esorn.ag.state.oh.us/...

protect children from predators like myself