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N4T Investigators: Burial Burdens

TUCSON – Some veterans’ widows want the federal government to increase the benefits available when veterans die.

Carol Schweska’s husband was a Vietnam veteran. As he was dying, she realized she could not afford the burial he wanted.

“He was very proud to have fought in the war,” Schweska said. “and at the end, he was very disappointed in his country.”

She received a check from the Department of Veterans Affairs after settling for cremation.

“I had to come up with cash to have the cremation, which I never wanted him to have,” Schweska said. “He should have had his burial.”

Sharon Dineley’s husband was also a veteran. She said she received a check for $697.

“If my kids and my brother hadn’t come through for me, I would have been charged storage fees at the mortuary until I could come up with the money to have him cremated,” Dineley said.

Both women said the VA compensation was several thousand dollars away from paying for the memorial they wanted.

A VA representative stated in an email, “VA benefits compensation dollar amounts are set by Congress. For questions about these amounts, we refer you to the relevant congressional committees of jurisdiction.”

The amounts vary if a veteran dies in a VA hospital or wants to be buried in a national cemetery.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s office stated in an email, “This is an issue Senator Sinema has worked on since her time in the U.S House. Senator Sinema is currently cosponsoring the BRAVE Act, which is bipartisan legislation that increases the burial benefits the VA provides. She cosponsored similar legislation in the U.S. House and remains focused on ensuring all Arizona veterans and military families get the benefits they’ve earned.”

Senator McSally stated in an email, “As a veteran, I know how much the men and women who serve in our military put on the line every day for Americans’ freedoms. It is our duty to take care of the veterans who courageously defend our freedoms at home and abroad. I am committed to ensuring that veterans and their families receive the assistance they need during their lives and after they have passed away.”

After the News 4 Tucson Investigators contacted the VA about the concerns, a VA representative said they contacted the women in this report.

There are other survivor benefits that may be available. VA benefits counselors may be reached at 1-800-827-1000.

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel is an investigative reporter at News 4 Tucson – KVOA.

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