COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The difference between Tennessee and Colorado could be $3,500 a month for one Army veteran with PTSD.
Jerry Hamilton, 43, who served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, has been told he’s no longer eligible for the same caregiver support stipend he received when he lived in Tennessee.
He moved his family to Colorado Springs in June to be able to use medical marijuana for his seizures.
When living in Tennessee, Hamilton would have 20 seizures a day. Since he’s moved to Colorado, he down to about four, his wife Cissie Hamilton said.
But after moving to Colorado, the Veteran Health Administration in Denver said Jerry Hamilton needed to be reevaluated for the Caregiver Support Program. The program provides financial assistance and other services to post 9/11 veterans and their caregivers.
“We may be homeless at some point. I cannot afford to stay here without the caregiver stipend,” said Cissie Hamilton.
Documents from the V.A. show the Hamilton’s had been receiving the benefit for nearly two years in Tennessee based on “a mental health condition.”
But in September, the Hamilton’s received a veteran denial letter stating they no longer “meet the clinical eligibility criteria.”
“They`re stating that the PTSD is not seizures. It`s not tics. It`s not movement. They`re stating that that`s a separate diagnosis than the PTSD,” said Cissie Hamilton.
The Caregiver Support Program is for Veterans who suffered a serious injury in the line of duty, according to Daniel Warvi, Public Affairs Officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The V.A. admits Hamilton has been diagnosed with PTSD but in a statement it claims a “comprehensive review determined that while Mr. Hamilton’s care needs that were communicated to VA were for ‘brain injury,’ this veteran does not have a service connected disability rating for a brain injury awarded by the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA). The Hamilton’s have since stated that they believe his need for a Caregiver is related to a Seizure Disorder and a Movement Disorder, but those are also not conditions that VBA has determined to be service-connected.”
The Hamilton’s insist they never applied for the Caregiver Support Program based on a specific injury. They just assumed he was covered because of his PTSD, an injury they point out was accepted by V.A. officials in Tennessee.
In addition, the Hamilton’s believe anyone who spends time with Jerry can see that he has severe ticks, a movement disorder and seizures. They add getting the V.A. to diagnose what caused his seizures has been an ongoing battle but they have no doubt it’s related to his service.
“You don`t get tourettes, dystonesia, seizures, just all this stuff, randomly at the age of 38,” complained Jerry who added, “All this stuff magically appeared after combat? If it walks like a duck, it`s a duck.”
The Hamilton’s have filed an appeal that includes a letter from a private doctor at Colorado Springs Health Partners that states: “Since his symptoms began after multiple deployments in the Middle East in the military, I believe it is very likely that all of his symptoms are some unusual manifestation of PTSD. I believe he needs a 24-hour caregiver because of this this.”
Cissie Hamilton said she still doesn’t understand why their caregiver benefit has been eliminated.
“The only thing that`s changed Is the zip code and the fact that he`s using medical marijuana,” she said.
Jerry Hamilton said he’s offended that he’s having to fight to keep a benefit he already received for nearly two years. “We shouldn’t have to fight for it. I thought I already did fight for it,” he added, referring to his years of combat.
The Department of Veteran Affairs said it’s expected to rule on the Hamiltons’ appeal by November 18, 2014.