The widow of a vet who shot and killed himself March 5 inside the rented Castaic home they shared and who, then saw her benefits cut off by the Veterans Administration, has had a portion of those benefits restored.
“It’s because of the article,” Elenna VanMeter told The Signal Thursday, referring to a story last week in The Signal reporting the termination of her VA benefits .
“The VA got word of it (article) from someone and that Monday (March 27) they told me that they would be expediting my case,” she said.
The initial benefits – called DIC, or death benefits – which are expected to begin arriving monthly next month total at least $1,295, VanMeter said.
VA officials are also expected to review the circumstances of her case to determine if she’s eligible for additional benefits, she said.
At least two other women also left widows by vets who took their own lives also reached out to VanMeter through The Signal when they read about her story.
One anonymous man, VanMeter said, gave her $1,000.
“I cried the minute I read his note,” VanMeter said. “I was flabbergasted. No one has ever done anything like that for me.
“He doesn’t know it, but that (donation) alone will get me into a new place,” she said, noting she fears staying in the house where her husband shot and killed himself in front of her.
On another positive note, VanMeter said she was given a note from her doctor that her two dogs were comfort dogs and necessary for her recovery. “They can’t take my dogs away from me,” she said.
“I still need help. I need a shrink,” VanMeter added.
Before government officials reassessed her case, the Veterans Administration cut off VanMeter’s benefits after her husband Jason VanMeter killed himself.
Before VanMeter took his own life, the couple was receiving money through his VA benefits. She was his caregiver.
Deemed mentally unstable, VanMeter couldn’t be left alone after twice having attempted to suicide in the past. Elenna was paid to be his caregiver as he had to be watched, she said.
A terse unsigned form letter dated March 6 from the Veterans Administration informed Elenna: “We have been notified of the death of Jason Vanmeter on March 5, 2017. Based on this notification, we have terminated the payment of VA benefits effective March 1, 2017.”
Private Jason Warren VanMeter fought for his country as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, according to his military service records documented in a discharge form, the DD214. He served with the Marines as an anti-tank Assaultman.
Because he began his service in January 2000, he was one of the first to be deployed to Afghanistan after the 911 terrorist attacks, Elenna said.
Twice VanMeter tried to commit suicide while in the military, she said. In the end, he received an honorable discharge in 2004.
His medals listed on his DD214 include: Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Navy Unit Commendation and Meritorious Mast.
Elenna’s GoFundMe site is https://www.gofundme.com/help-me-lay-my-hero-to-rest.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt