Troubleshooter: Veteran's widow fights for benefits

LUMBERTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- When the government owes you money, you expect to receive it. But one widow had been waiting more than a year for the money that was due to her.

Elmer and Dorothy Nichols were married for 60 years, and a big part of their lives together was when Elmer was in the Navy. He served for over 20 years.

When he retired, he collected his military benefits. Elmer passed away in August of 2013, and that is when Dorothy applied for continuation of benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"They told me that I qualified," she said. "And they were going to send it."

Dorothy waited but never received a check.

"I called later on to find out what had happened," she said. "[They said] 'We put it in the mail but it came back.'"

Months went on and Dorothy still didn't have a dime of the money the VA owed her, dating back to when her husband passed away.

Each time she called the VA, she said she got a different story.

"'It was deposited but it came back.' We checked the bank and nothing had been sent to the bank for me," Dorothy said. "I'm wondering why, why I'm not getting what they promised me."

Her daughter Judy Nichols-Wilson finally got involved. She said a representative with the Department of Veterans Affairs told her they tried to directly deposit the check in her mom's account several times.

"I've checked with the bank, they've called ACH and they see no proof of any type of money being deposited into my mother's account," Judy said.

After months of being frustrated, they called ABC 11.

"I don't feel like you should have to beg for something that you have already been approved for," Judy said.

We got in touch with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Dorothy got a surprise in the mail. Her check with 17 months' worth of benefits was finally in her hands.

"Thank you for your help," Dorothy said.

The Department of Veteran Affairs issued this statement:

"We regret that Mrs. Nichols has had difficulties at her bank in receiving the direct deposit of VA funds that were due to her. The bank's return of the funds to the US Treasury caused a temporary suspension of further payments. VA advised Mrs. Nichols that it has resumed her award and has arranged for her funds to be reissued to her. As you noted, we confirmed with her bank the VA's use of the correct account and routing numbers. The bank advised VA on January 13 that it is looking into what caused the problem."

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