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Native veteran raises profile of disability lawsuit


Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatric, Behavioral Health. Has 32 years experience.

Bobby O’Daniel, a member of the Navajo Nation, recently spoke at a press conference highlighting a lawsuit that could impact the lives of American veterans by providing strengthened avenues for disability benefits.

The suit, filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Veterans of Modern Warfare, seeks 90-day decisions on initial claims for disability benefits, and a 180-day period to resolve appeals. If the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs cannot meet these standards, the groups are requesting further injunctive relief in the form of interim benefits, which will provide veterans with a lifeline of support to allow reintegration into society.

According to the suit, the department takes an average of at least six months to reach an initial decision on an average benefit claim, and the actual delay is often much longer. Appeals to initial disability decisions, which are reversed approximately 60 percent of the time, take more than four years on average – with some stretching 10 years or more.

The suit also claims that the department has a backlog of more than 600,000 benefit claims, and the number is expected to increase with the 1.7 million troops that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

O’Daniel, who lives in Greenville, N.C., said that he wants to put a human face on the grim situation. Thirteen years after filing his first disability claim, he is still waiting to get full disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He currently receives 10 percent disability, which equates to approximately $100 per month.

The 39-year-old father of a young son estimates that he has spent nearly $100,000 of his own money on his healthcare while waiting for Veterans Affairs to process his disability claims. He has had countless claims denied, and each time he has filed, increasingly more information has been required.

“I’ve given all I can — even blood,” O’Daniel told Indian Country Today in a post-conference interview.

“I do take it personally, because it affects me personally, but looking at the entire group, I definitely realize that I am not the only one who is not getting claims that we deserve and have earned.”

O’Daniel proudly served his country during the Gulf War, and he doesn’t regret a minute of it. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1987 to 1992, working his way up to the Lance Corporal rank, which saw him specializing in aviation technology. During Operation Desert Storm, he was part of the combat cargo division where his job was to deliver supplies to and from shore.

After O’Daniel was released from the military, his health quickly began to deteriorate. Over the years, he has experienced problems with his kidneys, his immune response system, bone loss, deteriorating cornea, bone aches, and he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.


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