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Veteran needs old records to file for disability

Posted at 6:39 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-05 19:39:49-05

PROCTOR, Okla. -- A veteran was injured in a competition in 1979 and needs help finding military records to file for disability.


You can’t miss the massive scar on Paul Townsend’s left leg.


"It's just an emotional subject for me because I've been fighting for so long," he said.


It's an injury from a 1979 regimental rifle squad competition in Quantico, Virginia.


“It’s pretty steep hills up there in Quantico you know," Townsend said. "We were going down a hill and I was carrying the radio with my pack and slipped on wet clay and my legs buckled out underneath me.”


The 59-year-old’s records have been lost for the past 13 years.


"They said I tore all the cartilage and ligaments in my legs," Townsend said.


The records are essential to prove disability.


"I need them to prove that I was injured in the marine corps," the veteran said.


Right now, Townsend gets 10 percent for tinnitus for the ringing in his ear, which is only $133 a month. With social security, Townsend's monthly income is $680.


It’s hard for the four-year Marine Corps veteran to understand why it’s so difficult to get help after he volunteered to serve this country.


"I want to get my disability increased," Townsend said. "I deserve it."


He’s got the proof, a military ID, a certificate from the competition and even paperwork requesting documents.


“It feels like I’m banging my head against the wall," the 59-year-old said.


But the steps to get any documents through the VA is quite the process.


“We don’t realize that years down the road, when we ask for these compensations that years down the road, we have to have this paper trail," director and founder of 'The Barracks' Victor Lezama said.


2 Works for You called the Muskogee VA hospital, where Townsend has had multiple surgeries. They told us he needed to request the information from the National Archives, which Townsend has already done.


So we called Victor Lezema who is the founder and director of 'The Barracks,' a nonprofit organization in Muskogee that helps veterans find resources.


He says before the digital age, soldiers were responsible for holding onto their own papers. Nowadays, lost records are unbelievably common. Lezema says there's only one way to get financial help.


“The only thing you can rely on is your fellow battle buddy," he said. "You know people you served with, people you know who saw what happened to you.”


The more Townsend can find to fill out this form the better.


"Witness sheets like that help out a lot and they will go a long way and the VA will see those as 100 percent to get there where they need to get," Lezema said.


As Paul Townsend waits for home health care to arrive and attach an IV to his arm, his struggles will soon end.


“I got five grandchildren, seven actually," he said. "I can’t even afford to go see them.”

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