(WFLA) – Her signs, planted across from the front entrance of the V.A.’s regional office at Bay Pines, say it all. Tara Craver’s emotions swing from sorrowful to seething.
“The V.A. needs to find empathy,” she said.
Craver is the widow of former Marine Karle Craver.
Mr. Craver was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the 70’s.
He and as many as 900,000 other service members and their families were exposed to cancer-causing chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
In 2014, doctors diagnosed Mr. Craver with esophageal cancer.
“My husband was the love of my life, and I felt like, I’ve lost it all,” Ms. Craver explained.
Before he died, Mr. Craver applied for disability benefits.
The V.A. got some important things wrong. Paperwork states Mr. Craver was retired Army.
It determined his death was not service related, but connected to alcohol abuse.
“He didn’t drink, for starters,” Ms. Craver added.
The benefits would help her keep their house. The V.A. denied them.
Refusing to be intimidated by big government, she’s carried her protest to the V.A. facility in Louisville, Kentucky, where Camp Lejeune claims are processed.
In January, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, she shared her resentment.
“You’ve stripped my life of everything. You’ve taken my husband and you’ve taken my home,” she told V.A. representatives attending a Camp Lejeune meeting.
She is convinced contamination caused her husband Karle’s cancer. The V.A. has also denied Ms. Craver any compensation benefits.
Her appeal, she was told, could mean a five year wait.
“I’ll be dead and I honestly believe they’re waiting for me to die,” said Ms. Craver.
This morning, Target 8 sent an email to the V.A, asking for an interview with someone about the Craver case.
Less than two hours later, a V.A. representative called informing Ms. Craver there is an opening for her hearing on May 10th, if she wants one that quickly.
For Tara Craver, another emotional swing.
“They conveniently have an opening in two weeks on May 10th, instead of five years,” she wept. “That’s because of you. Thank you, thank you,” she said.
In two weeks, Tara Craver will sit before a V.A. judge to explain, no, Karle Craver was not in the Army, he did not drink, and he, like hundreds of thousands of Marines, their family members and employees, was poisoned at Camp Lejeune.
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