Disabled local veteran caught up in VA red tape
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A disabled Vietnam veteran in Spring has been fighting with the VA for years over a botched repair job that was supposed to make his life easier. It hasn't.
Frank Haynie's just trying to get some help. It's not like the VA isn't listening at all. Haynie tells Eyewitness News 14 VA staffers have said he deserves help, but that's not enough.
Haynie, 67, lives in a Spring home frozen in mid-renovation with his loving wife and the five-year-old granddaughter they're raising. Surrounded by unfinished business, he's trying to teach the highest levels of the VA bureaucracy something he learned the first day of navy boot camp 50 years ago.
"The Navy told me the first day of boot camp, we can't make you do anything. But it will be my mission in life to make you wish you did the right thing," Haynie said.
He joined the Navy in 1964 hoping to avoid Vietnam, but ended up there anyway helping build an airstrip in Chu Lai where the herbicide Agent Orange was repeatedly used. Like thousands of other vets, the Agent Orange got to Haynie, too.
"You have classic symptoms of Agent Orange poisoning. There is no cure," he said. "It's going to kill you."
He is now 100 percent disabled according to the VA because of the Agent Orange. Haynie is dependent on a cane and often times a wheelchair.
Five years ago, he qualified for a grant to help disabled vets renovate their homes. A $60,000 grant was supposed to rebuild his bathroom and doors to make them wheelchair accessible. But now, the $60,000 grant is gone and work still isn't finished.
"They built the shower in the wrong place and the shower is two feet too short," he said. "They had to do the shower piping three times. The real issue is when I come over here, I can't get through. (I) hit one side of another. It's too low. When I sat down, my head would hit. I probably have a fax here too."
For three years Haynie's written the VA trying to get help. He spent $500 on postage alone mailing his concerns to the VA in Houston and VA higher ups in D.C. eventually sending numerous documents directly to VA secretary, retired Army General Eric Shinseki.
"It looks like there have been some construction deficiencies," said Betty Rhoades with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
After we started calling the VA about his case, the staffer in charge of the Nationwide Grant Program came from headquarters in DC to Spring to see what was wrong.
"The construction was not done the way Mr. Haynie wanted it to," said Rhoades.
"Nor the VA," we asked.
"We're still investigating," Rhoades said.
Two months later that's still the case, despite her national responsibility for this program, Rhoades can't make the decision to make it right. Neither can her boss. Rhoades tells us the only person in the VA System who can sign the paperwork to fix Haynie's house is the VA Secretary himself.
"The Secretary of the VA has to sign off on it, so that's where we are," said Haynie.
General Shinseki oversees 285,000 employees and a $153 billion annual budget and has to decide if Haynie can get a new toilet and shower at his two bedroom home in Spring. And until that happens, he will wait on a federal government that promised to take care of him in combat in 1964 and is still seemingly struggling to keep the promise 50 years later.
Haynie knows and you probably do too, he's not the worst injured veteran in all of America, far from it. He's just curious why it's taking so long and why the man at the top has to sign off on his job.
in focus, ted oberg
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