VFW HELPS BLIND MARINE END VA WAITING GAME
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
VFW State Service Officer files for Reconsideration
As a Marine who served for 32 years, Robert Casto is among the toughest of the tough. He fought in Desert Shield, the Gulf War, and most recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.
While on a convoy in Iraq, Casto was hit with shrapnel. In 2003, that injury—paired with overexposure to the sun—contributed to a diagnosis of Macular Degeneration. This incurable eye disease is the leading cause of blindness for people 55 and older in the U.S.
"I started having trouble reading right away," said Casto. "But I wasn't diagnosed until my retirement physical in 2007."
Casto didn't fully grasp the severity of his condition until three years later …
It was a dark night in July. Casto—working his "safe" civilian job—was driving down the road on his newspaper route. The moon was slim. The streets were quiet. Unaware, Casto crossed the yellow line and almost hit a police car head-on …
He didn't even see it.
Shaken by the incident, Casto made an appointment with a vision specialist at the VA in Brecksville, Ohio. There he found his vision had gotten much worse—bad enough that he would lose his license … and his job.
In September 2010, Casto applied for 100% Unemployability. And the waiting game began …
After almost a year, a VA doctor proclaimed Casto legally blind. One week later, Casto received his long-awaited VA decision—a DENIAL of benefits!
Upon filing an appeal, Casto was sent to a specified "outside-the-VA" specialist. The doctor confirmed that Casto was not only legally blind, but four-times so.
"I kept checking the status of my claim, and the answer was always the same, 'Sir, it is in the review process.' It was so frustrating," said Casto.
Then came Marine Week in Cleveland, where Casto met VFW State Service Officer David Jenkins. After hearing Casto's story, Jenkins wanted to help. Knowing that an appeal decision can take 1-2 years, Jenkins filed for Reconsideration, stating that new information had surfaced since Casto's original claim was submitted.
Two weeks later, Jenkins called Casto and asked if he was sitting down.
"I was approved, and the approval was backdated!" said Casto. "I thought I was dreaming. Within two days the backdated earnings were already in my bank account."
Casto is grateful to Jenkins for ending his waiting game.
"I truly understand the frustration of waiting, and I know some have waited much longer than me," said Casto. "I will forever be grateful to Mr. Jenkins for truly doing what he said he would do."
From the OCT 2012 VFW Edition http://heroes.vfw.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8125
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