News

Vulnerable war veteran families cry foul

  • Awaiting benefits: Maureen Aubrey, widow of war veteran Elliot Aubrey, in a 2012 picture (Photograph supplied)
  • The late Elliot Aubrey, a Second World War veteran who died in 2002 (Photograph supplied)

A war veteran’s family are owed $20,000 in unpaid benefits and are struggling to make ends meet, they said yesterday.

Kerrie Aubrey, whose 86-year-old mother Maureen has spent the last month in hospital, said the family have been forced to pay interest only on the mortgage for their home.

She said she believed the War Veterans Pensions Commission was “using any excuse to delay making payments”.

Ms Aubrey said yesterday: “This can’t go on. It used to work fine, but since March it got worse.”

Her mother is the widow of Elliot Aubrey, a Second World War veteran who died in 2002.

Her family said she was entitled to $7,000 a month in pension and other benefits, but only a fraction had been received.

The Aubreys were one of three families who said they were grateful for an increase in veterans’ pensions, which will go up from $800 a month to $1,000 in October. They questioned why some of their benefits took so long to reach them.

One family, who asked not to be identified, said they often waited months before they got their benefits and that they still had not been given their June payment.

An 82-year-old widow, who also asked not to be named, said she had been waiting for a $128 copay from a dermatologist’s appointment in March.

She said: “Social insurance said they would pay it, but they have not. When I e-mail them, I don’t get a reply.

“Everything used to work like a dream, it seems that copay for a medical specialist, is not getting paid.”

Her husband, also a veteran of the Second World War, died in 2013.

She added: “The doctor has been waiting for his payment and has been extremely patient about it.

“But I feel like paying it myself so that I don’t have my conscience bothering me the next time.”

Parliament approved the pensions increase last month, with new benefits such as psychiatric services and visits to chiropodists added.

Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker and seniors’ advocate for the Progressive Labour Party, at the time accused commissioners of withholding benefits from veterans.

Mr Burgess told MPs that veterans who went into rest homes were denied their pensions.

He added: “No Act gives you the power to take a pension from somebody.”

Mr Burgess said: “I have had complaints from some families that they have not been paid in a few months. I have not been able to verify them.

“But I do know we have people receiving a pension and they stop paying the pension when they go into a rest home. They don’t have the authority.”

Mr Burgess said he had met with the commissioners and was “still awaiting answers”.

He added: “I have told them that if they have ceased paying, folks need to get their pensions as soon as possible.”

Ms Aubrey said she was living “day to day, penny to penny”.

“I owe my caregiver. We have no internet and no transportation. We’ve been paying for things out of our own pockets and not getting reimbursed.”

Ms Aubrey added: “I’m an educated person. I’ve got all my faculties. I feel bad for others who might be confused or not able to follow what’s going on.”

Carol Everson, a case worker for the Bermuda Legion, said: “The veterans are now in their 90s, and most are vulnerable and frail.”

She added that “a number of veterans’ families report delays of several months in receiving pensions”.

Ms Everson said: “There should never be a lack of response or a lack of respect and courtesy to inquiries, and there is no excuse for pensions, which have been provided monthly for years, falling behind by several months, putting severe financial pressure on families and veterans.”

She added there was a lack of information on the Government’s website on benefits available to veterans. Ms Everson said: “The criteria for eligibility and benefits should be clearly laid out, including the procedure for applying for a pension or transferring benefits to a widow on the death of a war veteran.”

She added the legion had a leaflet on benefits which can be obtained by e-mailing nosoldierleftbehind@hotmail.com.

The Ministry of National Security said it would be unable to comment until today.