Navy veteran, declared dead, said he would get retirement money after all

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Less than a week after our story showing a Navy veteran’s struggle after the Department of Veterans Affairs pronounced him dead, he has learned that his pension payments that had been interrupted would now be restored.

Chris Sullivan served 26 years in the United States Navy and received regular disability benefits from the VA as well as retirement benefits from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).

Last month, his wife received a letter from the VA offering condolences for the passing of her husband who was — and is — very much alive. The VA and DFAS had stopped his benefit payments. Eventually, Sullivan was able to collect disability benefits, but her retirement remained in jeopardy.

On Friday, the story from 8News’ sister station WAVY 10 detailed Sullivan’s battle to recover about $6,000 from his retirement account. On Monday, DFAS informed him that he would receive the money he was entitled to after all.

“They let me know that I’m setting my account back to active status, then [Wednesday] they’re going to release the funds, and by Friday I should see the money in my account, Sullivan said Tuesday afternoon.

Retired Army Major Richard Ryder of the Richmond area knows DFAS all too well.

“It’s a big machine, it’s a lot of paperwork, but you have to be persistent, you can never give up,” Ryder said.

He fought with them for 16 years to get his retirement right. He saw Sullivan’s story on 8News.

“I saw it and thought, wow, maybe there’s something I can do,” Ryder said, adding that he tipped off an analyst he knew in DFAS.

The camaraderie doesn’t surprise Sullivan.

“That’s what we do as veterans. We take care of each other, and I appreciate this gentleman who did that,” Sullivan said.

Very soon the story became known to people inside DFAS who could make a difference.

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