Bay Pines, Florida -- For the past several months, we've been reporting on the mistreatment of American veterans as thousands of them say the Department of Veteran Affairs makes it cumbersome and sometimes impossible to get the benefits and the help they need.
Each day, 18 veterans returning from combat zones commit suicide, which means each year more than 6,500 take their own lives.
Larry Griffin, who did two tours in Vietnam, says he loves America and is patriotic, but adds he is sick of seeing how veterans are being treated. Griffin is like many veterans who are upset. He was depressed and diagnosed with sever post traumatic stress disorder in 1998, 13 years ago. However, Griffin says, as of this date, he has not received anything from the V.A.
North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones, speaking on the House floor, said if something isn't done to help the veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, the situation is only going to get worse. While Congress is trying to pressure the Department of Veteran Affairs to take care of those who fought for our country, many are left out in the cold. As 10 News uncovered in this letter from the Department of the Army, "Units fighting in the Gulf War were told to destroy their records since there was no space to send the paper back to the United States."
The letter goes on to say it was in direct contradiction to Army regulations.
Andrew Marshal, the regional director of the Disabled American Veterans, was surprised when we showed him the letter. He said it could have been one, five, six, hundreds or thousands. Marshall says he just doesn't know. But what vets know, is that means their claims are denied oftentimes because the Department of Veteran Affairs says efforts to obtain service records for all potential sources were unsuccessful. Several Gulf War vets have told us their entire medical records are gone.
However, it's not just the Gulf veterans who have had their records destroyed. There are thousands of Vietnam veterans like Gary Six who have had their records destroyed and what is remaining is classified. That means when the Department of Veteran Affairs wants more information in order to help the vets, they can't give it to them.
Six says every time he tries to apply for his benefits, the VA says they need additional evidence. Six says he can't provide the evidence if it isn't there.
And while Memorial Day ceremonies praise service people who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who still suffer the scars of war say they are often forgotten. Six says he is really "pissed off."
The Department of Veteran Affairs says it is doing the best it can to serve those who served our country. However, since we have started looking into the problems, vet after vet has contacted us to tell their horror story. Clearly, there is a disconnect somewhere. On this Memorial Day, it seems appropriate to ask Congress to keep pressuring the V.A.to get it right. You can count that we will keep the pressure up as well.