Helping veteran resume everyday life

Guest column in the Sun Community News by ELISE STEFANIK March 24, 2019 7:00AM

Before the festive holiday season last year, Don Romaca’s wife was met with a confounding notification in her mailbox: the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) sent her a condolence letter in the mail for the death of her husband, Don Romaca III.

This was suspicious because Mr. Romaca was very much alive and was reading his own death notice. As a result of this error, DFAS had started to withdraw thousands of dollars in pension payments from his bank account — leaving him with a negative balance in his account. It was less than a month before Christmas, and Mr. Romaca didn’t know how he would pay for gifts, food, or anything for that matter. Mr. Romaca is a veteran with more than 20 years of service to our country. As he says in his Facebook post on my page, he felt “neglected” by the country that he sacrificed so much for.

As is often the case with bureaucratic agencies, Mr. Romaca spent hours and days on the phone with DFAS, the VA and the bank to no avail. He was continually told to “call back next week.” As you can imagine, Mr. Romaca was extremely frustrated with this situation and worried about his future. Since his account was overdrawn, his forthcoming paychecks were at risk, and he would have to pay interest on his credit card in order to survive. His hope was dwindling, so he reached out to my office for help.

Mr. Romaca first contacted my office on Dec. 6, 2018. My staff immediately reached out to him to collect more detail on the situation. Once we obtained all the relevant information, we sent an inquiry to DFAS to try and resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Additionally, we followed up with phone calls to DFAS on the same day to ensure they had received our inquiry, understood the gravity of the situation and were working on a quick resolution. Just one week later, DFAS confirmed to my office that they had corrected the erroneous death in their system and were in the process of reissuing the payments to Mr. Romaca’s account. Four days later, Mr. Romaca received the payment and the issue was 100 percent resolved.

On average, DFAS cases take between 30 and 90 days to come to a resolution, and it’s clear that Mr. Romaca would have been forced to wait that long had he not reached out to my office. His Christmas would have been ruined, and his future would have been in jeopardy. My office was honored to step in and resolve the issue in just one week. There is no worse time to find your finances in crisis than during the holiday season, and I’m thankful that Mr. Romaca was able to afford presents, food, gas and other necessities over Christmas.

“Needless to say, this situation happening right before Christmas was incredibly frustrating and stressful for my wife and I,” Mr. Romaca said. “I am so thankful that I reached out to my representative, Elise Stefanik, for help. Her office was able to get the job done, and my Christmas was saved. Our district is in good hands with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.”

Stories like Mr. Romaca’s reinforce my commitment to our district, strengthen my resolve to continue getting results for my constituents and remind me of my primary mission in Congress: improving the lives of the people of New York’s 21st Congressional District. It was an honor to serve Mr. Romaca, and it’s an honor to serve each and every one of my constituents.

If you are struggling with an issue that you think my office can help with, do not hesitate to reach out.

  • Glens Falls: 518-743-0964
  • Plattsburgh: 518-561-2324
  • Watertown: 315-782-3150
  • Washington, D.C.: 202-225-4611

You can find this artlce on the Sun Community New’s Website here