Government demands widow repay mistaken VA payments, plus interest.

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – The widow of a WWII vet says she didn`t want to take VA benefits, but the government insisted. Now bureaucrats want the money back, with interest. Fox 2`s Chris Hayes dug into a bizarre battle over thousands of dollars, despite a widow`s desire to do the right thing.

Lucille Koester`s late husband Andy was a veteran of WWII. Lucille, who struggles with a voice disorder, described how her husband returned home and fought battles in his sleep. She said, “He thrashed around so much and one night I heard him (yell) `Put your hands up. Get `em up. Get `em up higher.`”

Yet, she said he resisted disability benefits. She said that was common in her generation. She said, “I`ve never, you know, gotten any help from anyone and I`ve paid my bills. I was brought up in Maine on a farm where you didn`t take government stuff.”

She said VA reps pressed her after her husband died and told her she was entitled to benefits. She talked about how a VA representative said, “‘you will get a widow`s pension of about $600 a month for the rest of your life, regardless.`”

Years later they told her she was not eligible, because a teacher`s retirement benefit she was getting. Yet she says they kept sending her monthly checks. ‘They didn`t stop payment. I kept getting them for a whole year,’ she explained.

Now the government wants $40,000 back, plus interest. The US Treasury is demanding more than $55,000 total. The interest continues piling despite an appeal she`s filed with the help of attorney and retired military Colonel Kenneth Carp. Carp said, “It`s absolutely absurd for somebody to tell you it`s being appealed and it could stop and at the same time they`re chasing you for penalties.”

Lucille wants to do the right thing. She`s prepared to pay back the mistaken payments, but she wants what`s just. It`s why the late Andy Koester fought for us and why he waited so long to ask for help.

Attorney Carp explained, ‘He just never thought about (taking disability) because they were all deaf, they all had frozen feet and they all had nightmares and they all had PTSD. It just wasn`t a topic of conversation.’

Koester says she`s being told the interest continues accruing because collections went to the US Treasury, which is separate from the VA.

Veterans Affairs said it would give me a response if I got a waiver from Lucille Koester. Lucille signed one and I sent the waiver to the spokesperson, who then stopped talking.

Contact Attorney Kenneth Carp

Follow Chris Hayes @ChrisHayesTV

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