Shining the light in dark places, various local news outlets have caused discrimination and bias to be rolled back. Whether it’s the VA Machine or wealthy Americans, veterans have been defended by local news while national news turns its back.
VA Reverses – Vietnam Veteran Finally Gets His Due
First stop, Fort Edward, NY.
“Charles Cooley, a Vietnam Veteran, is smiling today. For the past 2 years, he had his benefits cut despite suffering from diabetes, heart disease, arterial disease, neuropathy and asbestosis. The VA rating board ignored federal policy and was caught by reporters.” Read more: Military Advantage
This was significant. For many years, disabled veterans receiving compensation have been afraid of requesting increases or filing appeals with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their fear: the VA will either reduce or sever their rating, with or without cause.
Such was the case for Mr. Cooley. He filed an increase because of the numerous ailments he had as a result of exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam. However, the VA ignored federal law. They not only denied Cooley’s claim, but they also severed his compensation entirely. Cooley and his wife were in danger of losing their home.
Luckily, The Post Star picked up his story from June 5-7, 2011. After some bell ringing and negative press, the NY Regional Office Director, Frank Logalbo, took action. His team pointed out that the rating board made numerous errors. Cooley then received 5 years of back pay and a full 100% disability rating. Prior to that point, he was incorrectly rated at 40%.
Three cheers for local media. While national media is seemingly fixated on Weiner-gate and new wars all over Africa, at least some veterans are receiving justice.
Background: Republicans’ War Against Veterans
To provide a little background: while the manufactures of Agent Orange (Monsanto and Dow Chemical) are not liable for the illnesses caused by the Agent Orange, the American taxpayers who stood by the call to war most certainly are on the hook. Thus, the VA is required by law to provide care and compensation to disabled veterans whose lives were forever altered by war.
The VA, however, does resort to illegal or unapproved tactics to stall or inhibit the disability compensation and benefits process. We call this “blocking and tackling,” similar to the techniques insurance companies use to falsely deny claims. They hope you drop the issue. Similar, the VA hopes you go away or die during the process. As the old saying goes, “delay, deny, hope that they die.”
Recently, House Republicans like Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann have been telling veterans that they need to sacrifice for the country, again. Not only was the sacrifice of life and health not enough on the battlefield, but veterans are now expected to allow their services and compensation to be cut by politicians. Back in January 2011, Republican Michele Bachmann wanted to cut $4 billion from the disabled veterans’ compensation. In April, Republican Paul Ryan’s underlings told the DAV that it was looking to implement Option 35. Option 35 was an austerity measure developed by the Congressional Budget Office that would cause 130,000 veterans to go without healthcare.
These cuts were abandoned, but the cause was not forgotten. Instead, the House cut funding for a new courthouse for the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals. This is the court that oversees the VA’s Board of Appeals. Over 70% of the cases heard by the court are overturned with awards for attorney’s fees to the veteran’s side. This means 70% of the denials rendered by the Board are without cause or justification. Without the new courthouse, the court will still be housed with the VA’s headquarters, which does seem to be inappropriate at best. At the worst, it’s like asking the fox to watch the henhouse.
HOA Gets Ugly with Disabled Vet
Evans, GA is the second stop. Former Sgt 1st Class Sean Gittens is emerging triumphant after a local HOA attempted to block construction of his home. Severely injured in Iraq, Gittens qualified to have an adaptive home built for him by Homes for our Troops. HFOT builds 2,700 square foot homes for only the most severely disabled veterans at no cost to the veteran. The homes are specially designed to meet the special needs of these veterans.
Gittens himself is unable to talk or walk after suffering an IED explosion and subsequent stroke. The family is supported only by the limited income from the VA and from the help of organizations like HFOT. Thus, it could not afford to finance the additional size necessary.
Six months after purchasing land and receiving approval from the Knob Hill Home Owners Association, HFOT had planned to start construction of the home last week. Unfortunately, HOA President Rick Trump and others had different ideas. They delivered a cease and desist order to HFOT at the jobsite. No clear reason was given at the time for the order.
Only later, during a CBS interview, did the HOA attorney reveal the intent of the HOA, to stop construction because the home was too small. While some homes within the neighborhood are the same size as the one planned by HFOT, the Knob Hill HOA wanted the Gittens home to be at least 3,400.
Now enters the local news. Following public outcry from the blatant discrimination of the HOA, now, the HOA claims it is onboard and only awaiting some additional forms. Yeah, right.
Readers wishing to share their views can call or mail the Knob Hill HOA President Rick Trump. In a twist of irony, for the past 7 years Trump was theDirector of Student and Financial Services for the University of Phoenix, the largest recipient of veteran educational benefits. (People in this position have been under investigation for swindling students into taking out student loans they would never be able to pay back.) So it appears that while veterans were good enough to pay part of Trump’s salary with which he bought his home in Knob Hill, an actual veteran isn’t good enough to own a house down the block.
While government and big business is turning its back on disabled veterans, Middle America still supports her veterans.