January 11, 2009 – Inseparable from the moment they met, Judi Luby of Apache Junction said she and her husband Bob were soul mates.
“When he died, the last words I heard was, ‘Love you. Perfect.’ Can’t beat that,” Luby said. “46 years, we were still on the honeymoon.”
Bob, an Air Force veteran, died in 2007.
“He suffered and I would not want to see him suffering anymore,” Luby said.
Bob’s battles were done, but Judi’s were just getting started.
She applied to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for survivor death benefits not once, not twice, but four times.
“I’m trying to be very calm and nice about it,” Luby said.
Over and over, Judi said the VA kept asking for copies of her marriage license and death certificate, so she sent them yet again, this time certified mail.
Her envelope was received and signed for at the VA’s Phoenix benefits office, but still she was denied.
“This little old soldier just refuses to go away,” Luby said.
The ABC15 Investigators filed records requests, asking the VA for all similar claims to see how many others were being denied.
The VA claims the records do not exist.
We got Judi in contact with the American Legion.
“The stress level that has been put on me has been tremendous, and this has gone on for 16 months,” Luby told Art Brest, American Legion service officer.
“It causes me grief to think about that,” Brest said.
48 hours later, Judi’s claim was approved.
“Dear Mrs. Luby, we made a decision on your claim for dependency and indemnity compensation,” the paperwork read.
Judi will now receive $1,400 a month plus more than $20,000 in owed back-pay.
“If Channel 15 had not gotten involved, I would have never seen this paperwork, I can guarantee it,” Luby said.
The VA refused to talk on camera, agreeing only to answer questions by phone.
“I would say we have lessons learned,” said VA Phoenix Regional Office Director Sandra Flint. “I apologize to Mrs. Luby for the time that it did take us to process her claim and I appreciate Channel 15’s help in helping us get that done.”
The VA said its staff may have failed to follow proper procedure, resulting in Judi’s case being denied.
RESOLVING A BENEFITS CLAIM WITH THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
Veterans Benefits Administration
Local Office: 3333 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85012