INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An I-Team 8 investigation into the Veterans Affairs office in Indianapolis is prompting federal legislation that could help veterans across the country. It’s in response to what I-Team 8 uncovered about veterans dying before ever receiving their benefits.
If a veteran dies before getting their benefits, the new legislation would award those benefits to family members even if the children are over 18. Right now it only goes to dependent spouses and children under 18.
When the Indianapolis regional office was ranked the third slowest in the country for awarding benefits to veterans, I-Team 8 dug deeper. Veterans like Shelton Hickerson, a drill sergeant on active duty for more than 20 years fought for his benefits for years. After serving in Vietnam twice, he had claims related to Agent Orange and lung cancer.
The VA said he was entitled but then made him wait nearly another year before his claim was processed. He died the day he was granted more than $377,000. The VA told I-Team 8 the money would “stay in the treasury.”
His daughter, Sharon Hickerson, told us in November 2013, “I feel misled, misguided and lied to.”
“Part of the cost of going to war is taking care of the veterans who wear the uniform. Right now the VA is failing in some areas,” Rep. Jeff Miller, the House Veterans Affairs committee chairman said.
The I-Team 8 story prompted Chairman Jeff Miller and Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski to draft the legislation that, if passed, will include the Hickerson children — now all grown and over 18 — being paid the $377,000 that was to go to their dad.