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Discharged and dishonored:
Shortchanging America's veterans

CHRIS ADAMS and ALISON YOUNG
Knight Ridder

Jan 14, 2006
Part 1: Each Page is a continuation of the same story, just shorter for easy reading!

DRY RIDGE, Ky. - Like thousands of his fellow veterans of America's wars, Alfred Brown died waiting. In 1945, when he was a 19-year-old soldier fighting in Italy, shrapnel from an enemy shell ripped into his abdomen. His wounds were so severe that he was twice administered last rites. When Brown came home, the government that had promised to care for its wounded veterans instead shorted him. Not until 1981, however, did Brown realize that his monthly disability check didn't cover all the injuries he'd suffered. He launched what would become a 21-year battle.

"As a member of the so-called 'Greatest Generation,' I am well aware of the large numbers of us passing away," he wrote the nation's chief veterans judge in 2001. "I am prepared to meet our Creator. My fear is that your court will not make a decision in my case."

Brown was right. He died a year later, and his case died with him. As he closed the books on the case, Judge Kenneth Kramer acknowledged that Brown might have been right all along. Had Brown not died, the judge wrote, "I believe that the Court would likely have so held."

Tens of thousands of other veterans have returned from war only to find that they have to fight their own government to win the disability payments they're owed. A Knight Ridder investigation has found that injured soldiers who petition the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for those payments are often doomed by lengthy delays, hurt by inconsistent rulings and failed by the veterans representatives who try to help them.

The investigation was based on interviews with veterans and their families from around the country and on a review of internal VA documents and computerized databases that had never been released to the public. Many of the records were made available only after Knight Ridder sued the agency in federal court.

Part One : Part Two : Part three : Park Four : Part Five :
Part Six : Part Seven : Part Eight : Part Nine : Part 10


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