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Worried widow seeks assistance

Annette Smith walked into a DAV office in Philadelphia utterly distraught. When she sat down with benefits advocate Joe Kauffman, she revealed that her husband, Jimmy, had passed away a few months before. Having never worked outside of the home, the recent widow didn’t have any source of income beyond her VA Survivors Pension. 

Bearing the burden of grieving the death of her husband, whom she had been with for 45 years, she feared she would also soon lose her home. 

Jimmy Smith served in the Navy during Vietnam until he suffered a serious accident aboard his ship. 

“He tried hard to keep working after his medical discharge, but his injuries became too much to take,” said Annette.

Thankfully, the VA had awarded Jimmy benefits that allowed him to continue providing for his family. Though he had transitioned out of military service, Jimmy chose to live the rest of his life in service to his community.

“At the funeral, I tell you, you have never seen so many grown men cry,” Annette said. “Everyone loved Jimmy Lee because they knew he cared about them and their future.”

Each Labor Day weekend, children couldn’t wait for Jimmy Lee’s Jamboree—a special cookout where Jimmy would provide lots of food and loads of encouragement.

“The entire neighborhood would come out! The kids just flocked to him,” Annette reminisced. “He would sit down with the young men and say, ‘If you don’t want to go to college, go into the Navy. It has been good for me, and serving can give you many opportunities to have a bright future.’ He believed that serving his country was the most honorable thing he could do.”
While the youth in the community looked back at the legacy Jimmy Smith left to them, Annette faced a future of trying to stay in her home and provide for herself.

“When Mrs. Smith came to me, she explained that her late husband, Jimmy, had always taken care of her and that she never had to work,” said Kauffman. “Her singular source of income was his Social Security and the little bit of money she was drawing from her VA Survivors Pension.”

However, as Annette recounted more of Jimmy’s medical history, Kauffman identified that, as Jimmy’s widow, Annette was entitled to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This would significantly increase her monthly income.

“Due to our ongoing intensive training, our benefits advocates are highly competent in identifying oversights in an applicant’s paperwork,” said DAV National Adjutant and CEO Marc Burgess. 

With the assistance of Kauffman, Annette’s monthly benefits income increased enough to cover her monthly mortgage. Had no one pointed her to DAV for help, Annette might have continued getting the lower monthly payment for years, possibly leading to foreclosure on her home as well as other financial hardships. 

"As veterans, we do not always do a good job of preparing our spouses to understand how to file for the benefits available to them after our passing,” Kauffman said. “We often hear widows or widowers say, ‘I didn’t know that I needed to begin a conversation with DAV after my spouse’s passing." 

The additional money Annette was awarded ensures she can stay in the home her late husband provided for her. It also guarantees that Jimmy will be taking care of his wife for the rest of her life. 

DAV helps survivors of our disabled veterans, like Annette Smith, receive the assistance they need in filing their claims. Become a supporter today!

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