Service Dog Program at VA Frustrates A Claxton Wounded Warrior - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Service Dog Program at VA Frustrates A Claxton Wounded Warrior

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A Claxton wounded warrior has to fight another battle, this time with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Kinard family said it's been a nightmare trying get reimbursed for their service dog and they aren't the only ones having problems. The family said it keeps getting the run around with the VA and they have submitted the same requested paperwork multiple times for almost a year now. The Kinard family said it's sad that after all the sacrifices they can't get the proper help.

From the outside Hamilton Kinard looks like your typical husband and father but on the inside he's suffering from a traumatic brain injury as a result of his service in Iraq in 2004 to 2005.

"Complete nerve damage from head to toe and so various limbs decide when and where they are going to work and it might not be the most convenient time because you might be out in public and his legs just decide not to work," said Britnee Kinard.

Britnee said as a way to help her husband, a VA doctor cleared him for a mobility service dog, but that was just the beginning of jumping through hoops to get their dog, Gunner.

According to the Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA will pay for a guide, hearing, and mobility dog's vet care, travel associated with getting a dog, and the hardware required for the dog to perform the tasks necessary to assist a veteran.

To date, Kinard hasn't seen a cent for Gunner who has racked up just under a $10,000 bill.

"Nobody seems to be able to give me an answer. When you want an update no one seems to know what's going on or you get bounced to one VA to another. Oh call Charleston, call Atlanta, call Savannah, call Columbia," said Kinard.

The VA will not tell News 3 the status of Kinard's case because of privacy issues.

One of the VA approved organizations to get service dogs from, 1 boy 4 change, said the holdup is nothing new.

"We help them get the dog and then they get to the VA and its nothing but red tape and more roadblocks and it doesn't matter how much paperwork is sent or who we talk to. It has been almost two years now and still no dog has been paid for by the VA," said Janet Carswell.

Janet Carswell said to ease the financial burden on the veterans her organization does a lot of fundraising and asks wounded warriors to try and raise $1,000 to cover all the services.

"If they ever do get reimbursed by the VA for their dog then of course they make a donation back to the foundation for providing the dog so they can in turn help another soldier get a dog when they need one," said Carswell.

Problems with the VA service and guide dog program can be felt nationwide. Sgt. Major Jesse Acosta from California was hit with a bomb in 2006 in Iraq. Acosta said the VA wouldn't endorse him for a guide dog even though he lost both of his eyes. Acosta said he was able to get Charlie Boy through the kindness of The Seeing Eye organization.

"They paid my airfare, the government didn't, they paid my stay, my meals, my training in order to come home with Charlie Boy, the government didn't pay one cent," said Sgt. Major Acosta.

Kinard said Gunner gives her husband his independence back and she's tired of these problems being swept under the rug.

"You can only put me off for so long, and them I'm going to expect an answer, and I'm expecting an answer," said Kinard.

A 2010 audit was done by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General on the guide and service dog program. The 2010 audit is the last one on file and recommended then that VA medical center personnel better understand the qualifying criteria for service dog benefits and the process required to apply for them.

If you would like to look at the audit for yourself click here: http://www.va.gov/oig/52/reports/2010/VAOIG-10-01714-188.pdf 

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