MOULTRIE — Tommy Curles wants the world to know he’s alive.

Especially the Department of Veterans Affairs, because he says they haven’t gotten the message yet.

Curles, an Air Force veteran, told The Observer last week that he receives a pension from the VA because of a 20 percent hearing loss he suffered during the Vietnam War. He was a crew chief on B-52 bombers and KC-135 air tankers, serving in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Guam, and the loud jet engines damaged his hearing.

He said the checks were mailed to him at home. He had tried to get Direct Deposit, he said, but gave up because the government made it too complicated.

Then he moved, and he said the checks stopped coming.

Apparently, he said, the checks were not forwarded to his new address. One or more were returned to the VA, who may have taken that as a sign that he was no longer among the living.

The VA sent a letter in March acknowledging his death, he said.

“I said uh-oh,” he recalled, “because I know how the governement is. It’s so big you can’t talk to nobody.”

He said was not able to locate the VA’s letter prior to his meeting with The Observer.

Curles, a Colquitt County native who now lives in Valdosta, contacted the Valdosta office of the Veterans Benefits Administration. He said Ed Kent, supervisor of that office, wrote a letter affirming he was still alive and sent it to his superiors.

Kent told The Observer he does not specifically remember writing such a letter for Curles, but he said he helps so many people with one problem or another that he may well have done so. He said it isn’t frequent that the VA or Social Security erroneously files someone as deceased, but it does happen from time to time just because of the volume of paperwork. When it happens, he can fax to the VA a letter saying the client has verified his identity.

The letter did not solve Curles’ problem.

“Every route I take is to no avail,” Curles said.

Initially, the lack of checks was an inconvenience, a problem to be solved. Curles was working for a Valdosta company that services ATMs at banks. He wasn’t getting rich, but he said he was doing all right.

In July, Curles turned 62, and he retired. Now, his VA pension holds a bigger spot in his financial plans. Or it would, if he could get it.

“Now that I’m retired, it’s really hurting me,” he said.

Curles said his next step is to contact his lawmakers, either U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop or Jody Redding, the local representative of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

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