PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – 26-year Navy veteran Chris Sullivan was a dead man talking Friday night at his home in Churchland, Virginia.
“I still can’t get over that. Having me deceased, and not getting an explanation.”
Three weeks ago, his wife opened some mail that, some might say, came from the dead letter file.
“[It read] ‘Dear Ms. Sullivan, we’re sorry for the loss, the death of your husband,’ and I’m like, ‘Chris, look what the VA just sent me,'” Veleria Sullivan said.
It even came with two checks, one for “burial allowance.”
Fortunately, what’s written on paper is not set in stone.
Chris Sullivan retired from the U.S. Navy eight years ago with medals and major back problems. He’s rated 100% service-disabled, but the VA stopped the benefits because, well, they thought he was dead. And in a case of true overkill, his military retirement was cut off, too.
“It’s a major financial hassle. Everything stopped. Everybody had me being deceased,” Chris Sullivan said.
Veleria Sullivan said she also received thoughtful-but-unnecessary condolences from an employee over the phone, when she was trying to straighten everything out.
“She said, ‘I want to say I’m sorry for your loss,’ and I said, ‘My husband is not deceased. My husband is standing right here beside me.'”
For now, the Veterans Affairs part of the problem appears to be solved.
“After two weeks of going back and forth, trying to get this resolved, they finally got a resolution yesterday,” Chris Sullivan said.
But two months of Navy retirement — about $6,000 worth — remains dead in the water.
“They’re telling me it’s a process. I don’t know why it’s a process when you know that I’m alive. I’ve shown all my credentials that I’m alive,” he said.
“The worst thing is their poor communication,” Veleria Sullivan said. “Because it’s not his error, it’s their error. But [they’re] penalizing him.”