SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Sarasota World War II veteran died while waiting for an appeal on a pension decision, but now his daughter is pushing for officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs to take another look.
Navy Ensign Willis “Spike” Link served on a ship assigned to draw enemy fire during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“His ship was a decoy to draw Japanese fire so they could get the Marines on the beach,” Link said. “I don’t know if I would have the courage to stand up and go into a battle. My father did. He volunteered.”
Link’s father did not talk to her about his time in the service, and even left out that he was part of one of the war’s key battles. She said he did not mention that until they were standing in front of the iconic Battle of Iwo Jima memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
“That famous statue of the Marines raising the flag,” Link recalled. “We’re standing in front of it and my father just very quietly kind of looked down at me and said. ‘I was there.'”
Link said her father was granted a monthly pension in February 2016. At the time, she was told he also qualified for one year of back pay.
“I had a social worker saying he qualified,” Link said. “The Sarasota County Veteran Service Organization said he qualified, and the VA itself said he qualified.”
But records indicate the VA ruled the claim was not filed by a March 2017 deadline.
“Yes,” Link said when asked if she filed the paperwork on time. “100%.”
According to Link, the paperwork was filed weeks before the deadline. An appeal was granted last year, but then canceled.
“They said I didn’t confirm my father’s hearing,” Link recalled.
Link said a judge agreed to give her father a new hearing, but not until “around January 2023.” Her father died in October of 2022.
“I still want a hearing. I would like the VA to hear that they need to use human eyes to take a look at their own records,” Link said. “See the mistake that they made and then make a correction.”
A VA spokesperson said the agency is looking into the specifics of Link’s case following questions from 8 On Your Side.
Link said she has called and emailed VA personnel “somewhere close to a hundred” times.
She said she just wants a chance to appeal the decision.
“When I think of what my father did in order to preserve freedom in this country, what he was willing to give up,” Link said. “My father deserved what he earned. I can’t give up on this.”