A U.S. Army veteran of both the Vietnam and Iraq wars told the Mississippi Clarion Ledger that his prosthetic legs were repossessed after the Department of Veterans Affairs wouldn't pay for them and he refused to go through Medicare and pay a copay.
Jerry Holliman fought in Vietnam as a teenager and served in Iraq in his 50s, earning a Bronze Star in both wars and completing 40 years of military service. He said that exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam led to multiple battles with cancer. Holliman also has diabetes, which led to gangrene and two his legs being amputated — one in 2018 and the other in 2019.
He began a stay in the veterans home in Collins, where he received prosthetics from a company called Hanger. He got a few rehab sessions with the legs in before the matter of who was paying became an issue.
He was told that Veterans Affairs would not pay for the legs, and he said he was then encouraged to go through Medicare. But, when he saw that he would have to pay a copay with Medicare, he refused to follow through.
"Medicare did not send me to Vietnam," Holliman said to the Clarion Ledger. "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."
On Dec. 23, a Hanger employee came to the veterans home to adjust the prosthetic legs. Holliman said the employee told him to sign some Medicare papers. Holliman declined to do so, telling the man that VA should pay because "this is their responsibility."
The employee took the legs and left, the Clarion Ledger reported.
After Holliman reached out to media about his case, Hanger returned the prosthetics to him — but they aren't functional unless further adjustments are made, so he's still limited to the veterans home, unable to move around much. Holliman said the Hanger representative said the adjustments won't be made until Hanger receives payment.
VA spokesman Matthew Gowan called Holliman's claims "highly misleading," according to Newsweek.
"VA's Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Service, which also has more than 600 local contracts with accredited orthotic and prosthetic providers, stands ready to deliver comprehensive support to optimize health and independence of our Veterans," Gowan said "If eligible veterans do not wish to take advantage of these services, VA is unable to intervene and correct issues arising with personal purchases."
Hanger would not comment on Holliman's case, citing health privacy laws.