All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2003

Family struggles after vet's death

Oct. 15, 2003 12:00 AM
Jessica Wanke
The Arizona Republic

The disability checks stopped when a Queen Creek veteran died Sept. 22. Now, his family must wait up to 12 weeks for a death certificate to get survivor benefits.

The family's sole source of income was monthly veterans' disability payments of Dean M. Weisman, 43, who was an Army staff sergeant when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991.

Weisman's family is eligible for survivor payments, or "dependency and indemnity compensation," which usually pick up when disability payments stop, according to Monica Cabrera, a program analyst with the Phoenix regional office of the Veterans Affairs Department.

But a death certificate is required. Because Weisman's cause of death is yet to be determined, a certificate could take up to 12 weeks, according to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.

In the meantime, the family has no money coming in and may lose its house.

Carol Weisman had quit her job as a hairdresser to care full time for her ill husband and their two teenage children, according to sister-in-law Kristi Rice.

Family and friends have made financial donations, but bills are piling up, Rice said.

There is not much a family can do without a death certificate, said Tamara Scrogham, a Phoenix supervisor for the Disabled American Veterans.

"It's a very difficult situation to go through," said Scrogham, who annually handles about 40 cases of veteran death and survivor compensation. "I've seen a few lose their homes."

Cabrera says now that Veterans Affairs officials know the Weismans' predicament, they will try to get the payments started earlier.

Those payments will be considerably less than the $2,553 per month Weisman received for being classified 100 percent disabled while he was in the military. Basic survivor compensation is $948 per month for the spouse plus an additional sum for each dependent child.

Copyright © 2003, The Arizona Republic