Veteran’s daughter says VA withholding full benefits amount owed

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
World War II veteran Mario Salvi visits wife Geraldine’s grave site. Credit: Photo via WINK News.

The Department of Veteran Affairs formally admitted the mistake it made when it took away a local World War II veteran’s benefits because it thought he had died when, in fact, it was his wife who passed away in January.

Veteran Mario Salvi’s daughter, Deborah Kopko, said there is some good news and bad news Friday, as the department said it will return money her father is owed.

Kopko said the letter the VA sent her dad outlines the amount of money the department will send him. She fears the VA is keeping too much of the money her dad earned and deserves.

“Here we go again when I thought everything was solved and we were going to be fine,” Kopko said.

When Salvi’s wife, Geraldine, died in at the beginning of the year, he said he followed the law and notified the VA of her death. He told the government agency to take out the stipend relating to his wife. A few months later, a letter arrived addressed to Geraldine. It offered her condolences for her husband’s death.

So instead of the grieving the loss of the love of his life for the last 70 years, Salvi had to prove he was alive. Making matters worse, the VA reached into Salvi’s bank account without his knowledge and removed benefits paid since January, leaving his account overdrawn.

That’s when Salvi’s daughter turned to us at WINK News.

“Restore what they’ve done wrong and going forward trying to correct or do what’s right for the victims,” Salvi said. “Especially like old ones like myself — World War II people.”

Thanks to everyone who responded to our story, the VA pledged to get things right and fast. It sent a letter to Salvi offering condolences for Geraldine’s death. But, Kopko looked at the letter’s details of the benefits and said they don’t add up.

“To me, it’s another mistake,” Kopko said.

Kopko said the refund is off by at least $3,000. The VA said in its letter the department will keep benefits due to the death of Salvi’s wife.

“They took out more than what they’re putting back even with the stipend out,” Kopko said. “I think once he comes back and puts a pencil to it, he’s going to be concerned on where they’re shorting him.”

So it’s back to square one to make things right for the war veteran.

“Just one thing after another,” Kopko said. “I’ll be so glad when this is all settled, really.”

Kopko said she has been in touch with Sen. Marco Rubio’s office regarding the money she believes her dad deserves. She said Rubio pledged to go over the benefits to make sure everything is worked out accurately.


Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.