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Sunday, November 18, 2007

CNN: Waging War on the VA

This weekend, CNN's Special Investigations Unit airs another in its Broken Government series, this one on the struggles some returning troops face in receiving adequate Veterans Affairs disability compensation for severe injuries sustained in the Middle East. PTSD is also touched upon.

The program reveals flaws in the current VA disability system, many of which have been reported for years, that affect all who must navigate it.

Meet Iraq war heroes who barely escaped death, sacrificed limbs and then came home to a broken bureaucracy that let them down. Marine Sgt. Ty Ziegel, Army Maj. Tammy Duckworth, and Army Sgt. Garrett Anderson share the intimate details of their survival on the battlefield, and the war they would end up fighting on their soil. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates the shocking reality of what happens to so many wounded warriors once they return from the battlefront in Waging War on the V.A.

Re-broadcast tonight at 8 pm and 11 pm EST, the videos are currently up at YouTube; I've included those in extended.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Background of one profiled, from CNN:

Ty Ziegel peers from beneath his Marine Corps baseball cap, his once boyish face burned beyond recognition by a suicide bomber's attack in Iraq just three days before Christmas 2004. He lost part of his skull in the blast and part of his brain was damaged. Half of his left arm was amputated and some of the fingers were blown off his right hand.

Ziegel, a 25-year-old Marine sergeant, knew the dangers of war when he was deployed for his second tour in Iraq. But he didn't expect a new battle when he returned home as a wounded warrior: a fight with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Sometimes, you get lost in the system," he told CNN. "I feel like a Social Security number. I don't feel like Tyler Ziegel."

His story is one example of how medical advances in the battlefield have outpaced the home front. Many wounded veterans return home feeling that the VA system, specifically its 62-year-old disability ratings system, has failed them. ...

[H]e spent nearly two years recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. Once he got out of the hospital, he was unable to hold a job. He anticipated receiving a monthly VA disability check sufficient to cover his small-town lifestyle in Washington, Illinois.

Instead, he got a check for far less than expected. After pressing for answers, Ziegel finally received a letter from the VA that rated his injuries: 80 percent for facial disfigurement, 60 percent for left arm amputation, a mere 10 percent for head trauma and nothing for his left lobe brain injury, right eye blindness and jaw fracture.

"I don't get too mad about too many things," he said. "But once we've been getting into this, I'm ready to beat down the White House door if I need to."

"I'm not expecting to live in the lap of luxury," he added. "But I am asking them to make it comfortable to raise a family and not have to struggle."

Within 48 hours of telling his story to CNN this summer, the Office of then-VA Secretary Jim Nicholson acted on Ziegel's case. The VA changed his head trauma injury, once rated at 10 percent, to traumatic brain injury rated at 100 percent, substantially increasing his monthly disability check.






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