Now, just a few weeks into studying at a private program, doctors say he is ready for a dog. Glendora resident Army Staff Sgt. Jarod Behee was also sent to the VA hospital in Palo Alto after being shot in the head by a sniper May 25, 2005. He had several surgeries for his brain injury at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in Maryland, then stagnated under the minimal care at the VA hospital, his wife said. She had to transfer him to a private facility and fight to keep his insurance coverage after VA doctors told her that Behee would never walk again. Now he runs. More than 3,200 American troops have been killed in Iraq since Operation Iraqi Freedom began four years ago, but Department of Defense figures show that more than seven times as many have been wounded, many severely. In those four years, 24,042 have been wounded in combat, including 13,357 listed as “Not Returned to Duty within 72 hours.” Among that group are the soldiers like Acosta and Behee, who lost their limbs or eyesight or pieces of skull. But when troops return home for medical care, many face dilapidated facilities, long delays, reduced insurance coverage and more. A task force to slash through the bureaucracy delaying veterans from getting services and benefits will be headed by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson. “No task is more important to me,” he said in a press release. In another release, the VA provided a long list of commendations, pointing out that, despite recent complaints, it has also been applauded by scientists and reporters for its work helping veterans. Acosta conceded he has been happy with how the Long Beach and West Los Angeles VA centers have helped him get needed surgeries. However, once his gums healed over his nerve endings, he refused to return to the VA systems’ classes for the blind. Instead, he fought for months to get his military insurance to cover Junior Blind of America, the private program he now attends that will soon get him a seeing-eye dog. “It shouldn’t take a year to get this type of treatment,” Acosta said. “It’s senseless. I’ve been in the military for over 30 years, and I never expected to be treated like this.” Behee was “set up to fail” at the VA hospital, said his wife, Marissa. The traumatic-injury wing of the hospital was not up to Americans with Disabilities Act codes, and Behee was in a wheelchair. “The facility was atrocious … it was understaffed, underfunded, underequipped,” she said. “It wasn’t ADA-appropriate, so you couldn’t get a wheelchair up to the sink. “Jarod was supposed to try and do all his daily living activities, like brush his teeth, but there was no room to maneuver the wheelchair with the bed in there,” she said. She fumed as the hospital combined his physical and occupational therapies into a single session, and focused on helping him roll over in bed instead of challenging his brain to help it recover. At first, she didn’t even know she could get his insurance to cover a private facility. Once she did, she realized she was lucky that the Army hadn’t retired Jarod from active-duty military status yet. It was one time when slipping through the cracks worked in her favor – as long as the Army hadn’t yet decided that he would never be capable of active duty, his pay and insurance were not reduced. Jarod Behee was officially retired Feb. 20, nearly two years after being shot. The 28-year-old Behee now volunteers at the private facility’s outpatient gym three times a week. “The Army has phenomenal medical technology … so guys who once would have died are coming home,” Marissa said. “But they have to be able to take care of their recovery, too. If you’re going to save their lives, you need to also save their quality of life.” After shoddy conditions were revealed at parts of Walter Reed – spreading black mold, vermin infestations and insufficient staff – Nicholson, the Veterans Affairs secretary, ordered a broad review of the VA medical system to determine whether similar conditions exist among the VA’s 1,400 hospitals and clinics. Meanwhile, the Veterans Affairs’ system for handling disability claims is strained to its limit, and efforts to relieve backlogs won’t be enough to serve veterans returning from combat, officials from the Government Accountability Office said recently. In testimony to a House panel, the GAO described a system on the verge of crisis. A report by the GAO in early March noted that explosives cause 65 percent of soldiers’ injuries, and more than a quarter of those soldiers suffer brain trauma. With more than 24,000 injured, those percentages translate into more than 4,300 brain injuries. That’s why traumatic brain injuries like Behee’s are “the signature injury” of the Iraq war, according to the Wounded Warriors Project, which supports severely injured soldiers by providing them with everything from clothes and toothbrushes to one-legged skiing lessons and benefits counseling. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2730 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Army Sgt. Maj. Jesse Acosta of Santa Fe Springs lost his vision and his teeth in a bomb blast in Iraq on Jan. 16, 2006. The 30-year military veteran said he never expected to be hurt so badly – or to receive the poor care he did from a VA hospital. Acosta, 49, recuperated briefly at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before being turned over, blind and with exposed nerves in his gum line, to Veterans Affairs care. At a VA hospital in Palo Alto, his mouth caused him too much pain to focus on what he was being taught about coping with blindness. The day they denied him a seeing-eye dog because he was learning too slowly was just one in a string of disappointments.
101 participants braved nippy conditions yesterday morning to take part in Letterkenny parkrun, a free 5k that takes place each Saturday.Aaron Nepgen set a new personal best during yesterday’s run, with a fantastic time of 19 minutes 31 seconds.Tony O’Donnell finished in second place, and was hot on Aaron’s heels with a time of 19 minutes and 36 seconds. Committee member Brendan Delap tells Donegal Daily that the race to the finish line was close, with Aaron out-sprinting Tony in the last 100 metres.“Aaron has taken one minute off his time from his pre-Christmas runs and is sure to post a time of under 19 minutes in the near future,” he said.Darren Winston joined Aaron and Tony across the finish line with a time of 20 minutes 56 seconds.Brendan says that the parkrun continues to grow week-on-week. The growing numbers can be attributed to the increased number of new walkers who come along each week, and are welcomed by the committee and other participants alike. “If you have not already tried out parkrun as a walker, runner or jogger – you are welcome to join in at St Conal’s Complex, Kilmacrennan every Saturday at 9.30 am,” he says.Entry is free but you are asked to register online at Letterkenny parkrun and then print off your barcode.Bring your barcode along with you and you’re ready to go!Photography by Stephen Woods.Picture Special: New personal best for Aaron Nepgen at Letterkenny Parkrun! was last modified: February 25th, 2018 by Elaine McCalligShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:aaron nepgenletterkenny parkrunpicture special