Politics

VA Official Refuses To Admit Combat-Disabled Veteran Served

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin asked Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to apologize after official Beth McCoy refused to admit a special ops Vietnam veteran who had even served in the military.

At a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee hearing Thursday, Zeldin pushed for Deputy Undersecretary for Field Operations Beth McCoy to address the case of John Mitchell, a special ops veteran of Vietnam, who has been wrongfully denied benefits in connection to his traumatic brain injury (TBI). While McCoy admitted she was aware of Mitchell’s file, she refused to say he ever served in the military.

“We admit that John Mitchell is a veteran and that he served in special operations for over 20 years, there’s no doubt about that biographical part of his service, correct?” Zeldin asked.

“Sir, I’m not that intricately familiar with his particular case,” McCoy said.

“You’re not even willing to admit he served in the military? You came here, you admit you know his case, and you’re not intimately involved in his case enough to even vouch he served in the military?” Zeldin said in response.

“On the spot, in this moment, I don’t know those intricacies,” McCoy said.

Mitchell served in the Army for more than 20 years, and more than 16 of those years were spent in special operations. He suffered numerous concussions resulting from an accident during a jump while operating as a paratrooper. He also was involved in a military vehicle accident. Both of these incidents together have left Mitchell with TBI, and he is 100 percent service-connected disabled.

He applied for special monthly compensation owed to vets who have TBI, and Mitchell’s physician supplied all the requisite information to the VA, but the VA refused to take that information into consideration when denying Mitchell benefits. In other words, as far as the VA is concerned, Mitchell’s injuries are “disabilities that have not been determined to be related to his military service.”

That benefits denial–and subsequent refusal to admit Mitchell even served–enraged Zeldin, who let McCoy know just how shameful her statement was.

“Imagine if you’re at home and after serving your country for literally decades and deploying into combat, you can’t even get the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge that you served, let alone the fact you have to live your entire life with Traumatic Brain Injury from a parachute fall and a military vehicle accident,” Zeldin said. “I’m offended on behalf of my constituent. I thank him for his service.”

“That right there was one of the most—if not the most—offensive answers I’ve heard in any committee hearing I’ve been in,” Zeldin said, adding McDonald owes Mitchell an apology and a thank you for his service.

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