Salisbury Family Claims Vietnam Veteran Denied VA Benefits - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Salisbury Family Claims Vietnam Veteran Denied VA Benefits

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Larry Richardson, center. (Photo: WBOC) Larry Richardson, center. (Photo: WBOC)
Larry Richardson's daughter, Tammy Legates, holds a letter of denial of benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (Photo: WBOC) Larry Richardson's daughter, Tammy Legates, holds a letter of denial of benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (Photo: WBOC)

SALISBURY, Md.- For more than two months, a Wicomico County veteran has been in the hospital. Larry Richardson suffered a stroke in early June. Since then, his health has taken a turn for the worse. Richardson is now at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, and paying for all of his medical bills is a struggle.

Richardson was in the Army, and served in the Vietnam War. His daughter, Tammy Legates, said the least the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can do is to pay him back is step up in his time of need.

But so far, the family's requests keep getting denied.

"These are the denial letters from the Department of Veteran Affairs," noted Legates, as she showed us the letters. Her father has received 16 of them since a stroke forced him into the hospital on June 8.

Richardson's health only got worse from there. He was placed on a ventilator, and is now on dialysis. Legates said her dad did not have insurance, and was counting on the VA for coverage.

"They gave us an address where to forward all of his medical bills at that time," she explained. "We have received denial letters, stating that it wasn't authorized. And my question to them, how do you get a stroke authorized?"

Legates refused to give up.

"I kept getting the same answer," she said. "'We're going to take care of it, we're going to take care of it.' And here it is, two months into it, and we still haven't heard anything from the VA, other than the denial letters.

As of Aug. 1, Richardson is now receiving 80 percent medical coverage through Medicare. Legates said she has submitted paperwork to Social Services to hopefully get the rest taken care of, but she is disappointed to see her father --a Vietnam veteran -- getting nothing but denial from the VA.

"It's a smack in the face, knowing that he's a vet," Legates said. "You know, he was honorably discharged. He served his country. And to be treated like this, I don't think it's fair for him or any other vet that could be going through this."

Legates said she is working with a social worker from PRMC to try and find placement for her father as his treatment continues.

WBOC reached out to the VA for comment, and was told by a spokesperson that due to patient privacy regulations, the organization could not speak specifically to Richardson's case.

However, per R. David Edwards, chief of public and community relations with VA Maryland Health Care System, "Non-VA care is provided to eligible and enrolled veterans in the community when VA facilities are not available. Care for Veterans in the community is provided through the Non-VA Care program."

According to the VA, "The use of the Non-VA Care program is governed by federal laws that contain eligibility criteria and policies specifying when and why it can be used. A pre-authorization from the VA is required for the treatment of any veteran in the community through the Non-VA Care program." 

The VA said it does provide exceptions for special circumstances.

"In the event of a medical emergency, a pre-authorization is not required and the care may be reimbursed on behalf of a veteran in certain cases if the Veteran does not have third party health insurance." 

Additionally, the VA offers the opportunity to appeal its decisions. 

"To provide veterans with options in the event of missing or incorrect information, the VA has a robust and active appeals process to review (and potentially correct) disputed claims for non-VA care," the VA said.

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