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WWII vet gets disability payment for hearing loss

WW II Navy veteran Vincent Busciolano, 87, has

WW II Navy veteran Vincent Busciolano, 87, has been fighting since 1946 for a disability payment for injuries he received while in service. (Jan. 10, 2010) Credit: Ken Sawchuk

He has waited more than 60 years, but Vincent Busciolano will finally get his due.

The 88-year-old Navy veteran lost his hearing while working around airplanes in the Pacific during World War II but was never able to persuade the Department of Veterans Affairs that he deserved disability payments.

But the Greenlawn resident's fortunes will turn Monday, when Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) presents him with a check for $89,349 in delayed VA benefits payments.

"I'm so nervous about this," Busciolano said. "I won't believe it will happen until it does."

Delayed benefits has for years been a problem for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In 2008, Newsday reported that the VA ousted the head of its New York regional office after it found that workers there were manipulating data to make it appear claims were being processed on time. Last September, an inspector general's audit of VA regional offices found that "inefficient (VA) workload management" caused 12,000 veterans' benefits claims to be delayed an average of nearly 15 months. And just last week, the CBS News magazine "60 Minutes" reported that as many as one in four benefits case files managed by the VA included errors.

Busciolano first realized he was losing his hearing while in the Solomon Islands as part of a special task group. His condition deteriorated, and he was left with profound hearing loss.

"I went to the dispensary and they were blowing hot water into my ears," he said. "They said I had a fungus. But nothing worked."

He first applied for veterans' disability compensation in 1946, one year after the war ended. But that and subsequent applications went nowhere.

"My wife said you won't get anything, so you might as well forget it," Busciolano said.

Over the years, he made several attempts to get his hearing back, including three ear operations. In 1970, he broke down and got hearing aids. But he hated the way they seemed to amplify everything except what he was trying to hear.

Eventually, a neighbor persuaded him that he was eligible for compensation from the VA, and that he had nothing to lose by trying again. The neighbor suggested that constituent service workers associated with members of Congress are often good at cutting through red tape.

Busciolano got in touch with an aide in Israel's office.

It worked.

The congressman plans to present the check to Busciolano this morning at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1469, in Huntington.

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