The U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs officially resurrected a 77-year-old Shady Side man yesterday.
Raymond C. Dempsey, a Navy veteran who served during World War II, had been battling the VA record-keeping since February, when the agency mistakenly listed him as deceased in its records and cut off his $98 monthly benefit payments.
After reading a story in The Sun yesterday about Dempsey's three-month ordeal to have the error fixed, the assistant director of the Baltimore regional VA office, Paul Prozialeck, managed in a few hours to restore Dempsey's benefits -- and his status as a living veteran.
Dempsey had repeatedly called VA offices in Washington, Baltimore and St. Paul, Minn. -- each time being told someone would get back to him. But yesterday, someone finally did, he said.
Prozialeck assured Dempsey that in the next couple weeks he would receive back payments for the benefits the VA owes him.
"I just wanted to get back to being alive again," said Dempsey, who served as a Navy machinist in Pearl Harbor and Guam from 1942 to 1945. "I appreciate what everyone's done for me."
Prozialeck said he still wasn't sure how the error occurred, but was continuing to look into the matter. "I hope we can use this [case] for training," he said.
Prozialeck said it should have never happened.
Officials speculated that Dempsey's wife's death and burial in November in the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Cheltenham triggered the error.
Dempsey had worried that he wouldn't be able to buried next to her if records showed he was already gone. But Prozialeck said, "That won't be a problem. The records will be corrected so that Mr. Dempsey can be entered alongside his wife at the cemetery."