VA Appeals Update 10

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has reinstated Joel Klobnak's disability benefits after a two-year fight and a burst of publicity, but the former Marine knows that hundreds of thousands of veterans are still stuck in disability-claims purgatory. Klobnak, 24, lost his left leg in Iraq in 2006. He spent six months in an Army hospital, then returned to Iowa with full disability pay. In APR 09, the VA notified him that because he had missed a doctor's appointment, the department was cutting his pay in half, to $1,557 per month. His appeal was snarled in a national paperwork backlog that has forced many disabled veterans to wait years for their benefits. While he waited, he struggled to support a family of four on half pay. The Greenfield veteran's plight captured attention in June, when The Des Moines Register explained it in a front-page story. He believes the media spotlight, plus pressure from the staff of his congressman, Steve King, helped persuade VA officials to retrieve his case from the pile and to decide late last month to reverse their earlier decision. "Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful," Klobnak said this week. "But I didn't want them to fix just mine. I want the system fixed."
VA leaders nationally have said their solutions include a new computer system and better cooperation with the active-duty military. They've told Congress that they're making progress, but that it will take time to dig out of the paperwork quagmire. Klobnak expressed thanks to Iowans who came to his aid after the Register story ran in June. At least 20 families offered help, including household items and cash. A lady in her 90s sent a check for about $250. Someone else sent $20 with a note that said "wish I could do more." Others donated basic supplies for Klobnak's young family. Klobnak said he has no intent to live off disability payments forever. He will continue taking online college courses, he said, and he plans to have a follow-up operation to remove bone growth that causes pain in the stump of his leg. He hopes to work full time eventually. In fact, he's looking into the possibility of becoming a police officer. One obstacle would be the required 1.5-mile run, which prospective cops must finish in a set time. Klobnak probably couldn't finish the run in the 15 minutes and 26 seconds allotted for men his age, but he noted that women and older men are given extra time to finish. He wonders why a disabled veteran couldn't also get dispensation. [Source: DesMoines Register article 9 Aug 2011 ++]


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