Chattanooga: Military widow appreciates awards, but seeks funds

Chattanooga: Military widow appreciates awards, but seeks funds

April 4th, 2009 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry Captain Stuart Holladay presents awards to Jessie Mae Davis during a ceremony at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Friday, April 3, 2009, in honor of her late husband. Mrs. Davis, of Chattanooga, accepted a Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously awarded to her husband, Sgt. Deforrest Davis, who served in the military for 23 years and passed away in May 2006.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry Captain Stuart Holladay presents...

Jessie Mae Davis said she was proud to accept the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals in her late husband's honor, but she needs more.

"I need money," the 77-year-old said.

She spoke after a military ceremony at Chattanooga National Cemetery to honor her husband, Sgt. Deforrest Davis, who served in the military for 23 years and fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

"I'm very proud our office was able to help Mrs. Davis secure the military recognition her husband earned, and I join the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council in thanking her for her husband's extraordinary service," said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in a news release.

The office of Sen. Corker also helped her secure an Air Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal and Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars in honor of her husband. The Chattanooga Area Veterans Council also presented to her a Valorous Unit Award and a Cold War Recognition Certificate.

However, even though her husband died in 2006, she has yet to receive her husband's monthly financial benefits from his service in the military, she said.

Benefits she receives after her husband's death could depend on how he set up his payment plan, officials said. Soldiers have the option to receive their full retirement pay until they die, or they can choose to receive a portion of the pay while living and, after the soldier dies, a spouse will continue getting a portion, said Ronnie Williams, chairman of the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council.

He advised Mrs. Davis to contact the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs to learn about her husband's payment plan and any other benefits to which she may be entitled.

"When my husband died, my name was on all of his checks because he was blind," Mrs. Davis said. "He thought, and I did, too, that I would get his monthly benefits after his death."

She had to wait nearly a year after his death before she started receiving one-third of his monthly disability check, about $400, she said. But after receiving it for two months in 2007, officials at the VA service center in Nashville stopped the check because they said her husband did not have service-related injuries, she said.

"How can that be when he gave his whole life for America?" Mrs. Davis said. "No way I can live on the money I have. I have heart problems, metal hips and a twisted spine."

She said her husband damaged both eardrums while serving in Vietnam in 1967.

The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs was contacted for a comment, but officials said they could not respond and suggested calling the Disabled American Veterans office in Nashville.

No one was available for comment Friday at the Disabled American Veterans office.

Mrs. Davis said she started receiving her husband's $657 in Social Security benefits in 2006 and receives a $374 disability check each month for her own illnesses.

She said Veterans Affairs officials recommended that she visit the Community Kitchen or apply for food stamps when she told them that she did not have enough money to live on.

"What would be right," she said, "is for them to give me my husband's money so I can live like a human being."