Veteran receives letter from VA claiming he's dead

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Veteran Receives Letter from VA Claiming He's Dead

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- According to a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs sent to James Fale's wife, he's dead -- even though he was the one who opened it.

"When you're pronounced dead, and you are the one opening the letter, it isn't really a bad thing," James Fales said.

In the letter, which you can read here, the VA extends its deepest sympathy to Dorothea Fales after her husband supposedly passed.

Fales is a disabled army veteran, who served 11 years in the military and retired as a sergeant. He receives treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and an ankle injury at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville.

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The letter from the VA was meant to guide Fales' wife on life after her husband's death, including information about death benefits and burial expenses that will be covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Fales contacted the VA using a number normally used to report the death of a veteran.

"They asked to verify who I was calling about, and I told them 'By the way, this is me!'" Fales said. "And the only response I got on the phone was, 'Oh boy.' So now they are processing me to put me back as alive in the VA system."

The condolence letter sent to the Fales is dated Jan. 8, 2015, but Fales said he got a call from the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks on Jan. 12 asking for a follow-up doctor's appointment.

"Their systems aren't talking to each other," Fales said. "If they're saying I was deceased on the eighth, then how was this doctor calling me this Monday, and making me an appointment?"

Fales and his wife have found some humor in the situation.

"Since the government says I'm dead now, can I stop paying taxes?" Fales joked.

The Fales are optimistic the VA error will be fixed without impacting his medical care.

"The effect [the error] is going to have on my benefits, and my health care, until they get it straight; I have no idea," Fales said.

The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks issued the following statement:

"We do apologize and regret that this error has occurred, and want to reassure our Veterans that we will work diligently to assist them in any way we are able to in order to resolve the issue."

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