By Howard Altman
November 5, 2015
Mike Rieker says he was contacted by the VA's St. Petersburg Regional Office on Wednesday and told his check would be deposited by Nov. 17. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTOMike Rieker survived the Vietnam War, where he was a Navy seaman serving aboard river boats. It was dangerous work that claimed the lives of 11 of his closest friends.
But Rieker could not survive the Department of Veterans Affairs claims processing system.
When his monthly VA disability check failed to show up in his bank account this week, the 69-year-old Dunedin man called to find out why.
A short while later, a woman from the VA’s Philadelphia office called him back.
“‘Your benefits were suspended because you are deceased,’” she told him.
“Well, wait a minute,” Rieker replied. “I’m talking to you.”
Realizing there was a problem, the woman told him to hold the phone. She came back to let him know that over the summer, a veteran named Michael G. Rieker died in Arizona.
“I’m Michael C. Rieker,” he said.
The woman then told him that in September, his wife filed for burial benefits.
“But I don’t have a wife,” he replied.
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