Middle TN veteran feels like VA has forgotten about his care - WSMV Channel 4

Middle TN veteran feels like VA has forgotten about his care

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Paul Fike, U.S. Army veteran Paul Fike, U.S. Army veteran

As the scandal involving the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to unravel, making things right will take a long time for veterans who've complained about the lack of care. That includes one veteran who says he was almost paralyzed waiting on the VA.

Paul Fike enlisted in the Army in the summer of 1963, and the government promised to always look out for him.

"Along with your death benefits and these other benefits, you would be basically taken care of after service," Fike said.

But he says the VA reneged on that promise last year when he needed it most. He drove 60 miles to the Alvin C. York VA Hospital in Murfreesboro with severe leg and back pain.

"The two lower joints on my back were collapsing in and needed to have surgery to relieve the tension and pressing on the nerves," Fike said.

Six months later, doctors determined Fike's ninth and 10th lumbar were fractured, and they transferred his case to the Cookeville VA to see a surgeon.

But after nearly a year of pain meds and consultations, Fike still hadn't seen the specialist, so he took matters into his own hands and saw a private doctor.

"He had an MRI done the 12th of May. I saw him the 13th. Yesterday, I had back surgery," Fike said.

That wasn't the only problem he's had with the VA. His hearing aids don't work properly, and the lenses on his eyeglasses fall out.

"They don't care about the vet," Fike said.

Still, he doesn't blame the former embattled VA Sec. Eric Shinseki, who resigned Friday.

"Why fire him? I don't think he sent a memo to anybody saying, 'Let's hurt these guys' or 'Do this.' Somewhere along the line, somebody thought dollar-wise we can save the government money," Fike said.

The veteran also has an idea of how to solve the problems at the VA.

"President Obama needs to take his pen out and sign one more executive order. Starting at the top, all the way down to the janitor, he needs to replace everybody in the VA that is not a veteran and put all vets in there. So the next time a vet walks in there, everybody's going to know what that person went through, and they're going to care," Fike said.

And this 66-year-old veteran is still bound by a sense of duty to a country he says deserted him.

"If I was capable today, I'd put the uniform back on and go back and serve my country because of what it stands for," Fike said.

Fike has to pay for the surgery out of his own pocket. He expects Medicare to cover 80 percent of the cost, but his portion could add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

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