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Sick veteran waits nearly six years for hearing

Posted at 6:21 PM, Mar 07, 2016
Nestor Capifali's passion is building and fixing things. It's what he did as an Air Force mechanic.
 
But now he can barely walk, much less create anything.
 
"My fingers are frozen," said Capifali.
 
"It is kind of heartbreaking to be restricted," he added.
 
Only 68 years old, Capifali looks years older. Within months he lost 70 pounds, had two heart attacks and needed a splint.
 
He has scleroderma. If it wasn't for his wife of 34 years, Nilsa, Nelson would be in a home.
 
"It is emotional because you have to see a person fall apart you know all these years," said Nilsa Capifali.
 
Nestor's exposure to a degreaser he used in Okinawa could be behind his debilitating condition.
 
"Osha found it to be hazardous to human exposure back in 1975 so they took it off the market.
But we used it to wash aircraft parts for everything," Capifali said.
 
Nestor's attorney, Jim Wardell, is trying to get Capifali the benefits he says the veteran is entitled to.
 
"We have provided doctor reports of his diagnosis and the chronic serious problems that he is having," Wardell said.
 
Wardell has taken a personal interest in this case.
 
His own son is in the military. Wardell said as he looked into this further he found Capifali is just one of many battling the same issue.
 
He got certified to represent veterans to help.
 
"In the law they say justice delayed is justice denied. This borders on ridiculousness when someone files a claim and they cannot even get a hearing for five, six years," Wardell said. "I felt it was my duty as a lawyer and as an American not to sit by and do nothing."
 
Wardell said there's medical evidence linking Nestor's condition to Agent Orange.
 
He's confident he can prove it. The challenge is getting  the VA to listen.
 
Under U.S. code, if a vet is suffering a chronic condition his case should be fast tracked.
 
"When I call the VA basically [it] says everyone is trying to get an expedited hearing," said Wardell in frustration.
 
"They served their time but are totally ignored at the end, that is how I feel. Andit does make me angry,” Nilsa Capifali said.
 
Capifali knows he may not live long enough to get his day in VA court but maybe his story will inspire others to take action.
 
"I am just happy and glad that I have one more day. I am hoping that maybe someone out there will listen and by me speaking it can help another veteran." said Capifali.
 
Action News tried calling and emailing the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. We are still waiting for a response.