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N4T Investigators: Wrongful withdrawal - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Wrongful withdrawal

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Sierra Vista - Virginia McGee says her husband was loving and sensitive on the inside, tough on the outside.  "He would come home all the time when he wasn't working. He loved to be around his family," McGee told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. "I never saw him cry except when a kitten was dying."

Army Staff Sergeant Dana McGee was a 20-year veteran, a crew chief on Mohawk aircraft, a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal. Virginia is also an Army veteran, they met at Fort Ord. The Sierra Vista couple was married for 36 years, and had two sons. Dana retired from the army in 1995; his last assignment was at Fort Huachuca. He was receiving a disability benefit of $263.23 a month due to severe knee problems. Several years ago, Dana developed dementia. He died four months ago, on Jan. 13. Friday the 13th.  He was 59 years-old. 

"I told him I wasn't ready for him to go, that I needed him to stay," Virginia said.  She was a widow at 58 years-old.

Her personal lost was followed by a financial loss. "I was shocked," she said. Shocked by a letter she received in March from American Southwest Credit Union, 

The letter informed Virginia that the Veterans Administration had withdrawn $3159.55 from the account she and Dana had shared. Without any warning, she says. 

When she opened the letter, she thought, "Are you kidding me? As if I don't have enough to deal with? My husband's gone and you're going to violate my savings account?" 

Veteran Administration records showed Dana McGee died on Jan. 13 of 2016. But the death certificate shows Dana died a year later, on Jan.13, 2017. 

"I know when my husband died, i was there, Virginia says. "He was home, I was taking care of him. I was there when he took his last breath." 

The benefits were to stop when Dana died. Since the V.A. had incorrectly recorded that he passed away in 2016,  it thought it overpaid a year's worth of benefits. That's why the agency took the money out of Virginia's account.

We asked her, "If you could talk to the V.A. right now, what would you tell them?" She said, "They shouldn't have taken the money out without eye-balling a death certificate in the first place. They had it right there on his account." 

Mrs. McGee immediately told the V.A.  about its mistake and says even though the agency admitted it, almost two months passed and it still hadn't returned her $3159. Then, she called us.

We called the V.A. A day later, a spokesman said the refund is now being processed and will be in her account in seven to 10 days.

Virginia said "I don't think it would have happened if you hadn't come here."  She also credited the staff of Rep. Martha McSally for working to help her get her money back. 

Veterans Administration spokesman Gerald Frederick confirmed the mistake, telling the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "It was a clerical error. When Mrs. McGee called to report her husband's passing, the call center representative wrote down the wrong year. He entered 2016 instead of 2017."

Virginia said, "They'd better change their policies that doesn't happen again to anybody else. It shouldn't happen this way." She says she would have appreciated a call or letter from the V.A. before it took the money out, so she could have told them to look at the death certificate, and all of this would have been avoided. The V.A. spokesman told us the agency is, as Virginia hopes, reviewing the entire process so this doesn't happen to anyone else.

UPDATE (May 15): Mrs. McGee told us that the money was deposited back into her account on May 15.. 

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

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