Government denies veteran benefits for 14 years

Veteran says they don't have proof of his service
Posted at 6:55 PM, Jan 05, 2017

He served this country proudly but when time came that Gaylord Walter needed help he said the government said no.

The VA denied benefits and said they needed proof of service. Walter has been fighting 14 years to get coverage. He even went back to work at  the age of 85 just to make ends meet.

His attorney, James Wardell, contacted Action News in hopes of helping get out this veteran's plea.

When Walter looks over the photos and letters from his time in Korea it makes him proud to have served his country.

"I am just glad to be an American," said Gaylord.

But there's also a lot of hurt for him and his wife of 51 years, Nancy.

"I never refused an order," said Gaylord through tears. "I'm sorry I just can't finish."

Nancy, also through tears, said, "I am sorry but years of suffering how could they?"

They were both so overcome by emotions as they describe their struggles with the VA.

"They got some jerks working there. I do not understand the way they treat us. And why would they treat us like that?" asked Gaylord.

Fourteen years ago the couple applied for VA benefits and the answer they got left them stunned.

"It is demoralizing, unethical, dishonest and I could go on," said Nancy.

The couple claims the VA wanted proof Gaylord had actually served in Korea. They are demanding evidence beyond medical documents showing war-time injuries like hearing loss and frostbite.

Gaylord also suffers from PTSD. And most startling of all the government said it lost all the original paperwork.

"Their records were stored in St. Louis, Missouri and their buildings burned and so the burden of proof had to fall on the veteran," said Nancy.

The couple finally turned to attorney Wardell for help. He told us the couple's plight is not unusual.

"Sadly we have heard this before about records being destroyed.  It is just an other example of how broken the system is," said Wardell.

Wardell ended up using the couple's own memories, a scrapbook full of letters and photos, to make the case.

"We put together undeniable proof," said Wardell.

But even with the proof there's another challenge Wardell is fighting for a hearing in front of a judge. The couple won't get anything until that happens. The judge is working on getting transcripts.

"We are trying to get this case done and nobody seems to care," said Wardell.

The delay has forced this couple at the ages of 85 and 77 to go back to work with Nancy as a nurse.

"I have had triple bypass done I guess I should be the one that should be retired," said Nancy.

Gaylord is working as a teacher.

"I am the oldest sub teacher in Hernando County," said Gaylord.

And now while Gaylord remains so loyal to this country he can't help but feel betrayed.

"I am embarrassed at the way it is now," said Gaylord.

The couple only hopes they can live long enough to see some of the benefits he fought so hard for. And it looks like that will happen.

After the interview and calls to Veterans Affairs, Wardell was contacted by an attorney for the Board of Veterans Appeals.

The VA Attorney Wardell assured that the judge does now have the hearing transcript he needed to write the order in Mr. Walter's case.  She further assured Wardell the agency is expediting the decision.