My dad served his country and is 91 years old today. His primary doctor is within the Veterans Administration hospital system. He often praises the doctors at the VA for what a good job they do and tells me what good people they are, but the VA hospital system has a practice that causes many military families additional grief when loved ones pass.
Here in Anoka County and across the country, we are seeing a major delay in the signing of veterans’ death certificates if they pass from natural causes.
The delay can happen when patients haven’t seen their primary care VA doctors within 120 days.
Under current VA practices, if my father passed today and I was unable to get the VA to sign the death certificate within 72 hours, our grieving family would not be able to plan a funeral to celebrate my father’s life and sacrifice. We could not close bank accounts, access life insurance or military benefits, transfer real estate, or address other issues families deal with when a loved one passes.
The current delays we are seeing can last up to six weeks while county medical examiners’ offices track down medical records so they can determine causes of death and sign death certificates. This delay causes undue hardship and stress for grieving families.
This VA practice is a huge problem for Anoka County’s Medical Examiner’s Office since we service about a third of Minnesota counties and many in Wisconsin.
However, this is not just a problem in Minnesota—it’s also an issue nationally.
While in Washington, D.C., last February, I lobbied our Minnesota Congressional delegation on this issue. They stated they support our efforts and are listening, but listening is not enough—immediate action is needed to prevent this from happening to any other military families! This should be an easy fix because it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
The solution involves using simple language that we have already supplied and adding it to another Veterans Bill to solve the problem.
I ask anyone who reads this letter to contact your U.S. senators or representative and ask them to act immediately to resolve this issue. Military veterans and their families deserve better.
Jeff Reinert is an Anoka County commissioner and commander of Sons of the American Legion Post 566
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