Minnesota widow of Ebola victim to get survivors benefits

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A Minnesota woman whose husband died of Ebola in Africa in July will soon begin receiving Social Security survivor benefits which had not been approved earlier because she does not yet have a death certificate for her husband, according to the Star Tribune.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken has been advocating on behalf of Decontee Sawyer, 34, who lives in Coon Rapids with her three daughters. Her husband, Patrick Sawyer, 40, died in July from the disease after traveling from Liberia to Nigeria.

The Social Security Administration requires proof of a person's death, such as a death certificate, before it will pay survivors' benefits to the deceased's family members.

But the Nigerian government so far has refused to confirm Sawyer's death, issue a death certificate or release his remains, in part because they blamed him for bringing Ebola to their country, the Star Tribune reports.

Franken's office announced Monday that the SSA has approved the benefits for Sawyer even without the certificate because of other evidence of Patrick Sawyer's death, which has been widely reported.

Decontee Sawyer is working part time at the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center in St. Cloud, according to the Associated Press.

"It was getting to the point where it's a matter of putting food on the table and putting a roof over our heads," she told the AP, which says the family will receive about $1,900 a month in benefits, and the first payment should arrive in about 10 days.

Franken's office will continue to work with the State Department in an effort to get Sawyer's remains and death certificate from Nigeria.

Patrick Sawyer, a naturalized American citizen, was a consultant at the Liberian Finance Ministry. He had been infected in Liberia, most likely while taking care of his ill sister. He did not know until after she died that his sister had contracted Ebola, Decontee Sawyer said.

On July 20, Patrick flew from Liberia to Nigeria and collapsed when he got off the plane. He died five days later.

Sawyer was the first American to die from the Ebola virus.

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