A disabled Vietnam veteran who waited more than a year for the Department of Veterans Affairs to process a claim that would allow him to buy a specially equipped vehicle finally got word late Friday: The check is in the mail.
“I’m just totally worn out,” said the veteran, Edwin Moore, 69, of Bay Shore. “This has caused such turmoil and agitation in my family. This shouldn’t happen to anyone.”
Moore, a former Army sergeant, was injured in a mortar attack south of Saigon, and now relies on a wheelchair because of an immobile left foot.
During his long wait for the $20,000 disability benefit, Moore said he didn’t get answers: He was repeatedly told that it simply hadn’t been processed.
Newsday inquired Friday afternoon about the holdup at the VA’s benefits center in Manhattan.
Michael Branam, a veterans service representative supervisor, said awards granted under a program that helps severely impaired veterans purchase cars modified for their disability are often held up by sloppy paperwork submitted by car dealers.
But Moore said when he spoke to Branam a short time later, the supervisor told him a check for the full $20,235.20 had just been issued. That was confirmed when Moore checked his VA claims account online.
Certain individuals who become disabled because of their military service are eligible for the one-time VA cash grant toward the purchase of a car or other vehicle, according to the VA website. The agency pays the grant directly to the dealer on behalf of veterans who have lost the use of a hand or foot, had significant impairment in both eyes, were severe burn victims, or have contracted ALS.
Under the program, once the VA approves a veteran’s claim, it sends a form to be completed by the dealer asserting that the car is appropriate for the disability. The VA is supposed to pay the claim directly to the dealer.
Moore said the VA approved his application to purchase a car on June 3, 2016. He said he signed a purchase agreement with Bright Bay Mazda in Bay Shore last August, but the dealer voided the deal two months later after not receiving the VA payment.
After arranging to purchase another car in March — this time from Garden City Nissan — the VA again failed to make good on the cash benefit, Moore said.
He said the dealer recently said it would have to void the purchase agreement if it could not be completed in 48 hours.
Moore, who often depends on his daughter to help him get around, said he hopes having the car — a Nissan Rogue — will give him a renewed sense of independence.
“I look forward to having a life again and not having to depend on other people . . . to take the car and go to the supermarket for a quart of milk, to go to the park,” he said.