Following the death of a San Patricio County Veteran in 2011, his surviving spouse applied for Dependency Indemnity Compensation on the basis of Metastatic Esophageal Cancer. “The claim was later denied where it remained until the surviving spouse appeared in our office in January 2023,” said San Patricio County Veteran County Service Officer (VCSO) and retired Army veteran Rudy Guzman. The spouse was welcomed by Guzman’s new Assistant VCSO and Texas Army National Guard veteran Jennifer Richardson, pictured, who had just earned her credentials for filing Claims a few months earlier. “She (Richardson) listened to the spouse’s story, all the while trying to make sense of the situation.”
The veteran had retired from the Navy in 1998 and was awarded the Southwest Asia Medal and Kuwait Liberation Medal. The spouse’s Claim was denied because the veteran’s service treatment records did not show evidence of complaint, treatment for, or a diagnosis of metastatic esophageal cancer in service. The VA also did not have a copy of the veteran’s private treatment records.
“The PACT Act had only been approved a few months before, so Ms. Richardson compiled all required VA forms, medical evidence, and argued the relationship between esophageal cancer and gastrointestinal disorders (Presumptive conditions for Gulf War Veterans) and Gastrointestinal Cancers of any type are covered by the PACT Act,” said Guzman. “She supported her statements with medical literature, requesting the surviving spouse be granted Dependency Indemnity Compensation effective the original date of application, May 11, 2011, and inclusion of dependent children.”
Months later, in the first week of September, Richardson had the privilege to inform the surviving spouse that the VA conceded service-connected death. Doing so, the VA awarded monthly compensation of more than $1,562 effective June 2011, plus over $206,878 in retroactive payment.
“She (the spouse) cried, she thanked us, and asked how she could repay us. We advised her a thank you was sufficient and encouraged her to share our contact information as often as possible,” said Guzman.
The assistance with the veteran’s spouse is part of a growing service trend for the San Patricio VCSO. “Up until 2021, this office serviced about 100 customers per year,” said Guzman. “In 2022, we provided service to more than 1200 veterans, surviving spouses, and dependents with retroactive payments of more than $1,763,000. To date, we’re on track to meet and or surpass last year. In 2023, we have provided service to more than 700 customers with retroactive payments of more than $1,218,000.”
In addition to Guzman and Richardson, the San Patricio County VCSO team is completed by Regina Bolger, who is an Army veteran spouse. “We take pride in what we do and hope to further facilitate assistance to our community,” said Guzman.
Pictured is the San Patricio County VCSO team. From left is Jennifer Richardson, Rudy Guzman and Regina Bolger.