Harris Co. Army veteran regains benefits after VA sent him death notice in the mail

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston-area veteran will continue receiving benefits and compensation after the Department of Veterans Affair cleared up an error in which a letter was mailed to him claiming he was dead.

Eyewitness News first reported RJ Atkins' story on Thursday, Jan. 21.

He said the letter, postmarked January 2021, claimed he died in September 2020 on the same day his father died.

"First of all, I'm alive! I'm me. I'm here," he announced in a Facebook video.

He said his father was never a member of the military and was never associated with the VA.

"As a result of your story, the Houston VA Regional Office reviewed Mr. Atkins' records and a representative reached out to him and reassured him that his compensation benefits were resumed," read a statement issued to ABC13 on Friday. "We sincerely regret the inconvenience this error caused Mr. Atkins. Thank you very much for raising this issue to our attention."

Atkins spent 10 years with the U.S. Army and National Guard. He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 where he was a combat engineer specializing in demolition. When he returned from the battlefield, he struggled to find stability and went through three divorces.

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Atkins was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder years after his service.

The diagnosis acknowledged what he went through and what he continues to battle every day.

"This was back in '05. So you think, 'Oh that's so long ago,' but some stuff is still vivid, and you just learn how to function on it," said Atkins.

The veteran is now a special education teacher with Aldine ISD.

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