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2 Investigators: VA Tells Live Claimant He's Dead

(CBS) – A U.S. Army veteran who worked on anti-terrorism cases and even went undercover for his country needed help. But when he went to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, he was rejected because he was supposedly dead.

CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini reports Karl Moess fears there will be further delays in his nearly decade-long fight for benefits.

The VA sent him a letter saying he was dead and denying him added benefits he was trying to obtain.

Moess says he was angry and confused because on the same day he received his so-called death notice, he also received a new VA card to get care at a VA hospital.

"I think this is an example of the government not knowing what the right hand is doing," he says. "This is totally ridiculous."

About eight years ago, Moess filed a VA compensation claim. It was denied, and he filed an appeal. The appeal was ongoing for about five years when the letter came last month saying he was dead. Now he is trying to prove he is alive.

"My fear is that they're going to cut all my benefits off," says Moess, who worries the mix-up would leave him with no insurance or treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Michael Peck, superintendent of Lake County's Veterans Assistance Commission, was not involved in Moess' case, but he has seen similar problems.

"Unfortunately, what happened to this veteran is not unusual," said Moess who has helped other veterans declared dead too soon. "I've called and said to them, 'Tell me what paperwork do I need to submit to you to prove this guy's alive?'"

He says this is part of a bigger problem with the VA appeals process, which includes delays so long that some veterans have died before getting a decision. He says the appeals process backlog of cases is "horrendous."

Peck, a former artillery colonel, says like Moess, he also waited eight years from his first claim through the appeal process, until finally being given benefits. That's not a good sign for the 290,475 pending appeals for compensation and pension.

"My concern is that how many other veterans are being treated this way?" Moess says.

CBS 2 contacted the VA and they quickly brought Moess back to life. Now, his appeal is pending.

A VA spokesman apologizes and says this is an infrequent error and errors are remedied as soon as possible.

Peck says the VA systems are outdated and a shortage of judges who consider appeals.

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