A Mississippi Army veteran who served in both Vietnam and Iraq says his prosthetic legs were repossessed and returned in an unusable state, and he says the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) won't pay for them.
Jerry Holliman, 69, told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper that prosthetics vender Hanger repossessed his artificial limbs two days before Christmas. Although he was encouraged to use Medicare to find replacement prosthetic legs, Holliman said he wanted the VA to pay for them. Medicare also required he submit a co-pay, which he did not want to pay.
"Medicare did not send me to Vietnam," Holliman told the paper. "I was sent there by my country... with the understanding that if something bad happened to me, that it would be covered by the VA."
During his service, Holliman received two Bronze Star Medals and was exposed to Agent Orange. He reportedly suffers from diabetes and has survived three forms of cancer.
Doctors amputated Holliman's legs after he became afflicted with gangrene. This past August, four months after his left leg was amputated, Holliman received the prosthetics from Hanger.
Holliman said that it wasn't until he underwent a few rehab sessions that Hanger told him the VA wouldn't pay for his artificial legs.
A spokeswoman for a Jackson VA Medical Center told the Clarion-Ledger that privacy laws precluded her from commenting on his case. Hanger similarly said it couldn't comment unless Holliman waived his privacy rights. A spokeswoman added that the company didn't remove legs after "final delivery."
A VA spokesperson told Fox News on Saturday there is its Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Service, "which also has more than 600 local contracts with accredited orthotic and prosthetic providers, [and] stands ready to deliver comprehensive support to optimize health and independence of our Veterans."
"If eligible veterans do not wish to take advantage of these services, VA is unable to intervene and correct issues arising with personal purchases," the spokesperson added.
According to Holliman, he never received a privacy rights waiver he could sign. And final delivery only occurred when "a patient has signed a verification of receipt that allows a claim for payment to be submitted to the applicable insurance payer."
Hours after the Ledger met with Holliman on Jan. 2, the company returned his legs. However, Holliman says that they haven't been adjusted properly and he can't use the devices without one of the legs collapsing.
"'You can have ‘em,’” Holliman says he was told by the Hanger employee who returned the limbs, “but they're not going to do anything to them until the VA pays them.”
The Clarion-Ledger reported that the VA did pay for a motorized wheelchair before Holliman lost his legs. However, the kitchen is the only part of his house that is wheelchair-accessible. He currently lives in a Veterans Home in Collins, Miss.
"I wanna go home," Holliman told the paper. "This place is not for me. It’s a dignified place for these guys to die, that’s what it is... It’s probably every other month somebody dies here. And you know what they do? Put a flag over them, and play 'Taps' and take them outta here.”