VA finally responds to Navy veteran after 8 On Your Side investigation

Rod McElveen.

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – For the last few years Navy veteran Rod McElveen of Clearwater has struggled, with his balance, and the V.A.

“My feet are numb, my hands are numb,” explains Rod.

The V.A. rejected Rod’s claim that exposure to Agent Orange debilitated him. “I just can’t feel with these hands,” added Rod.

A friend of Rod’s informed 8 On Your Side that Rod was behind some 12,700 other veterans on a list of people awaiting V.A. appeals in the St. Petersburg region.  Locally about 26,000 veterans are waiting for the V.A. to hear their appeals. Nationwide, the number is nearly a half million.

8 On Your Side reached out to the V.A. as well as his Congressman David Jolly.

In August we aired two reports, profiling Rod’s physical problems and how doctors believe the peripheral neuropathy in his hands and feet are tied to Agent Orange exposure.  The V.A. responded, rapidly.

“Thanks to you and Channel 8, for this to show up on the news and two days later go from 12-thousand to, “Hey we got you covered, something happened,” explained Rod.

Rod not only served his country in Vietnam, his work aboard the hospital ship U.S.S. Sanctuary helped save wounded soldiers.  He frequently went ashore for supplies and remembers sitting in areas freshly sprayed with Agent Orange.

“It was really sticky but none of us knew what it was,” he remembered.

RELATED- 8 INVESTIGATES: VA appeals process drags on longer than World War II

After leaving the military, his business success led to associations with the rich, famous and powerful.

Rod became ill, lost it all, then in 2011, turned to the V.A. for help.  The V.A. determined Rod was 20 percent disabled in 2015.  He appealed and dug in for the long haul.

“The whole system needs to be revamped,” he said.

The V.A. benefits appeal process takes an average of 1,407 days, which is three times longer than it took in 1991, 42 days longer than America’s involvement in World War II.

Rod equates this treatment of veterans with being spit on when they returned from Vietnam.

“That’s the way I feel the V.A. has treated us through the years,” added Rod.

After consulting with Rod’s private doctors, the V.A. increased his disability to 50%.  Rod claims the neuropathy he suffers has made it impossible for him to work and believes he is entitled to more.  The increase he’s just received will help a lot..

“I have enough to pay the 5 bills that I have and then the rest of the whole month I don’t have too much money to love on, this will help me quite a bite,” he said.

If you have something that you think needs to be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1 800 338-0808.

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