Skip to comments.89-Year-Old Vet Waits 68 Years for Benefits
Posted on 06/03/2014 4:59:10 AM PDT by Kaslin
I almost lost my Texas cool this past week when reading a Fox News report about an 89-year-old wounded World War II veteran who had to wait 68 years from the time he was on the battlefield until he received benefits. And you thought long waits and mishandling of veterans care was only a recent problem?
Milton Rackham of Belding, Michigan, who is a Purple Heart recipient, lived for decades without benefits because his records were lost in a fire; at least that's how the Veterans Administration explained its inability to give him the post-war care he deserved and fought for.
Rackham grew up in Rigby, Idaho, where he learned and lived by herding cattle. At just 17, he enlisted in the Navy. He was fighting in the South Pacific when Japanese kamikazes dive-bombed on American troops and he was severely injured. His wounds almost led to his having an arm and leg amputated, and he still has shrapnel in him. He spent two years recovering in Navy hospitals in Hawaii and the Philippines before returning to civilian life.
Two immediate war repercussions surged in his life: his inability to work as he did before the war because of his damaged limbs and the onslaught of post-traumatic stress disorder.
He explained it this way to his local newspaper, The Daily News: "For years after I got home I couldn't even think about war. When I got home I was a flat-out basket case. I was never going to get married. I was just going to go to work and hibernate. I was going to do whatever I had to do to just forget. All I wanted was to forget."
If it weren't for Rackham's solid Christian faith, he might have lost hope. But God helped him place one foot after the other and brought him a soul mate to help him, as well. Nevertheless, the fallout from the war continued to wreak havoc on his mind and body.
Rackham explained to Fox News: "I'd go to bed and wake my wife up with my screaming and thrashing around in bed. The nightmares ... have been ongoing for 66 years and continue to this day."
He and his wife, Carol, raised six wonderful kids back in Michigan. But unable to do the rugged work he had done before the war, he opened up an upholstery business out of his garage. Through thick and thin -- and many years were lean and slim, financially speaking -- he was just glad to be alive and working in any fashion to help his family get by.
Despite the VA's fire excuse, Rackham strangely began receiving $822 a month just a couple of months ago. The payments are labeled "VA Benefits," and he also received $7,000, or roughly nine months' back pay.
And Rackham has a good hunch why: In 2011, his good buddy Myrl Thompson started fighting for him by writing and explaining to Department of Veterans Affairs officials how Rackham served and was wounded in the war, had a hard time keeping employment after, and suffered through the years as a result of what he endured during the war. (Thompson was so moved by his friend's life and service that he paid tribute to him by publishing his story in a 2012 book, "PT Boat 81 -- Still on Patrol 66 Years After WWII.")
Despite Rackham's previous efforts going back to 1974, the VA repeatedly rejected his appeals for help -- at least five times -- because of a "lack of information." Then, all of a sudden, one day he received a letter that said his benefits had been approved "at the level of 50 percent."
Rackham explained to Fox News: "What drove me crazy was that they had the same information in 2008 and they denied me. That's what blows me out of the water. Ever since 1974, when I first asked for benefits, they've had the same information."
As far as how it felt to be rejected by the VA nearly his whole life after faithfully serving his country, Rackham's only commentary was: "It made me feel like I was worthless." He added, "Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction."
I can already hear the political response by VA officials and other government minions: Rackham is "clearly an exception to the rule." Yeah, sure, and I guess there are myriad other "exceptions to the rule," too, such as the dozens of courageous veterans who are now dead because some were cooking the books and dodging civic duty at veterans hospitals across America.
They are not exceptions to the rule. They are proof of the U.S. government's ongoing corruption and neglect, abandonment and abuse of its citizens and war heroes.
John F. Kennedy certainly had it right here: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them."
Even better is Rackham's message to the VA: "One out of every six homeless people in America is a veteran. For heaven's sake, acknowledge them. They should never be forgotten."
SSI and SSD give back pay to the day you applied. This man deserves the same at a minimum. I’d say an official presidential apology is in order to, but given the current president, I suggest we skip that.
Same with my father, he’s 87. My sister has been helping for years to try for his benefits. Records lost in the fire.
Sure seem to be a lot of fires at VA’s. I’ve heard stories like these before. Perhaps if they more clearly mark the fire extinguishers?
Reprehensible at the callous officious disregard this government had for him. Juxtapose this behavior with the daytime TV ads of “I can’t get the SS Disability benefits I deserve” and “Let the Cochran Firm get it for you”.
Fully thousands and thousands of dubiously debilitated ‘workers’ with the disease-du-jour, Bi-Polar disorder, anxiety, et al are approved (with the help of the Cochran firm and their ilk) and this veteran has to wait 68 years because the system doesn’t have an administrative court that can be bought like SSDI.
i don’t know why anyone thinks any of this is new. The VA has sucked for decades. No self respecting doctor wants to work there, it is regarded as career quicksand. It is known for having foreign doctors that can’t speak English. And the staff, the onerous paperwork, the ridiculous forms, there is nothing but discouragement and obfuscation.
It should be like this: if you served, you are eligible. Period. Instead there is a ridiculous hierarchy, battles about whether a veteran is truly injured, treating veterans like they are dishonest and magnifying their issues, all in the name of providing benefits only to the deserving.
It is a sick, sick system.
honestly speaking there was some fire in St. Louis that destroyed a bunch of records. But so the eff what? Whay do they have to treat these veterans like liars?
Let them tell when they were on duty.
Something similar happened to my neighbor, a WWII and Korean War vet. His records were destroyed in the National Personnel Records Center fire of 1973. It took his former platoon leader, then a Colonel, to pull strings with contacts at the Pentagon to get a certificate of military service (not a DD 214) and a replacement Purple Heart award issued to him so the VA would recognize his status as a veteran.
The fire was NOT at the VA, it was at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, on July 12, 1973. Nearly 450,000 cubic feet of records were destroyed when the top floor of the building was gutted. Personnel records of nearly 20 million former members, to include my father’s, records were destroyed.
The major groups of records destroyed were:
1. Army personnel who served between 1912 and 1959, and those who had been discharged between Jan. 1, 1973 and the date of the fire. Remember that USAAC & USAAF personnel were part of the Army, thus their records were included in the Army personnel records destroyed.
2. Air Force personnel discharged between 1947 and 1963.
See my post # 9 regarding the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.
Our son USMC(Infantry), three runs in the sandbox, was in a VA hospital. They told him ‘nothing more we cannot help with’... BS...BS...
As he was leaving a woman at a desk ask if he needed help?
Once more, what’s the difference?
What a difference it was!
She was with the VFW not the VA.
She had him fill out some forms and told him who to see.
All is now well!
I’m fully aware of where and when the fire was. I had to see if my military records were destroyed (not).
My point is that records can be reconstructed through a variety of means. It is through the tenacity of interested parties AND a compassionate government with employees that actually do their jobs that justice is done.
My mother was able, after some effort, to get records of group orders that contained my father’s records of involvement in pacific nuclear tests... records our government just could not, nor would not find - conveniently.
It was that effort that later allowed the cancer and other problems that eventually killed him to be classified 100% disability.
It has nothing to do with a fire. It has to do with honor.
I am aware of that, but was wanting to get the right story out to those who do not. The one problem, I’ve been told by a person I work with at NPRC is that they never had the personnel to really get the reconstruction properly done.
And there are folks at NPRC who find saying “your records were destroyed in the fire” as a way of not having to do their jobs. Those are folks who need to be replaced.
Well, I certainly agree with you on that. And, I fear it’s not just the NPRC taking advantage of a 41 year old fire. It is the VA, up to and including its highest levels. That’s what I meant about honor.
Definitely agree regarding the VA & honor.
May God bless that woman for helping your son...
I am so angry and yet moved. Angry that the VA rebuffed and rejected your son.
Moved that a member of the VFW stood by and helped your son.
Yes his records were destroyed in the St. Louis fire.
The fire had burned the outer edges of the documents (in my loved ones 201 file) and some of the top pages but most were viewable in part.
Visualize dropping a package of copier paper in a fire. Then remove it. Outer edges destroyed and some top/bottom pages. But not all. And that is my point. There may be some pages viewable, even after NPRC claims "destroyed."
I understand. However the point is being missed here. This isn’t about a fire in 1973 - not at all, especially for records from WWII. There are so, so many other repositories where information of this type are stored. Unit records, websites, national archives and the like.
This is about the VA misusing the fact of a 1973 fire to cover up their unwillingness to do their damned job.
I do not know for certain but think she was a paid employee of the VFW; not that it makes any difference.
When I came home I had some follow up work at the VA.
IIRC they had VFW & American Legion ‘helpers’.
Fortunately I found gainful employment with superb ($$$) insurance.
Not that my experience with the VA was bad; They were busy, busy, busy! 1970,1971 and many needed it far more then I.