The last time we met up with Iraq War veteran Rick Clasen ("Discarded Heroes," January 18, 2006), the VA was doing little to help him receive treatment or benefits for the post-traumatic stress disorder and other disabilities he suffered in Iraq. Since the story was published, it appears that little has changed.
In April 2005, Clasen returned from Iraq and immediately filed a disability claim with the VA. As of this week, his paperwork is still sitting under a sandwich on some bureaucrat's desk. The VA won't tell Clasen why it hasn't processed his claim, except to say that his medical records are missing.
Meanwhile, he and his wife, Miriam Goldman, are rearing their newborn child on random odd jobs. "This has been hanging over our heads for a year and a half," says Goldman. "I don't want this to last the rest of our lives."
Still, the VA's incompetence isn't the worst of Clasen's concerns. After "Discarded Heroes" was published, Clasen earned the ire of his Ohio guard unit. "They were upset that we aired out the Army's dirty laundry for all to see," Goldman says. "He was told he should have gone through the proper chain of command to fix his problems, which we already did before going to the press. We were desperate."
In exchange for taking his trials with the VA public, Clasen was denied his rightful promotion from specialist to corporal, which would have doubled his weekly salary from $200 a week to $400. "He heard them say that they didn't want some crazy man on medication to be in leadership," Goldman says.
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