Israel Helps Vets Denied Benefits

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Last week, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) joined with Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy and Linda Parsons, wife of late Sea Cliff mayor and Army veteran Norman Parsons, to call on the Department of Defense (DOD) to reevaluate the type of evidence that can be considered in order to confirm a veteran’s record of service when the official record is unavailable. In 1973, a disastrous fire at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed 16 to 18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF). Many veterans and surviving spouses are unable to confirm their service record because original files were damaged or destroyed in this fire.
Linda Parsons is one of those surviving spouses trying to navigate this ordeal. After Norman Parson’s passing in 2013, Linda tried to obtain his Military Separation document so that she could secure benefits her husband earned from his service in the Army from 1954 to 1956. After learning that this document had been destroyed in the fire, she submitted alternative documents that should have confirmed his record of service. However, due to the fact that this one document was destroyed by no fault of her own or her husband’s, his service could not be verified and her benefits were denied. Linda reached out to Israel’s office to help cut through the red tape.
“It is simply unacceptable that our veterans and their families are still being denied benefits 30 years after this fire,” Israel said. “Instead of being forced to sit in bureaucratic limbo, a new common-sense system must be put in place so that a combination of unofficial evidence can be used to confirm a veteran’s service record. It is long past time that these men and women receive the benefits they deserve.”
Mayor Kennedy said: “In addition to his military service, Norm Parsons proudly served our community for eight years as my predecessor in the Village Mayor’s office. Linda and the Parsons family deserve the benefit they are entitled to from Norm’s service without the barriers of bureaucratic red tape. I thank Congressman Israel for his leadership in ensuring that this longstanding problem is corrected.”
Linda Parsons said: “It is heartbreaking that because of a devastating fire, Norm’s service to his country has been erased from physical record. It is wrong that one piece of paper can determine whether or not I can obtain benefits that my late husband earned and was guaranteed.  I know that there are hundreds or thousands of other military families going through this same ordeal and I hope that every effort possible is made to right this wrong.”
In a letter to Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, Congressman Israel urged the Department of Defense and the five service branches to work together to develop a system in which unofficial evidence can be used to prove record of service.  He implored the Secretary to ensure the development of a clear and comprehensive system that exercises fairness and honors our veterans for their service.

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