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WWII WIDOW WINS BATTLE FOR BENEFITS
The Battle of the Bulge was one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.
Thousands of men suffered, and just as many died, in the deadly sub-zero temperatures.
Those who survived left the field with brutal effects of frostbite that would weaken their health and cause them pain for the rest of their lives.
Among those survivors was Purple Heart recipient Harry Taub. He regularly visited the VA Medical Center in Miami, Fla., to request VA Compensation Benefits and health care assistance.
He was determined to have the VA acknowledge his serious health problems were the result of cold weather exposure he endured at the Battle of the Bulge.
As Harry aged, his problems multiplied. He knew his health was failing and needed help.
In 1998, Harry turned to the VFW in Miami for assistance.
Harry and his wife Shirley described their struggles to Larry Berman, Assistant Director of Field Operations, National Veterans Service. The VA continued to deny service connection for his cold injuries. Meanwhile, medical expenses were taking their toll on the couple’s finances.
“We were able to get him a 50% rating because he had problems with his hands since they were frozen in WWII,” describes Berman. “However, he was denied any benefits for his problems of the feet because service medical records failed to indicate treatment for cold injuries of the lower extremities while Harry was still on active duty.
“He couldn’t walk because the pain was so bad, and his health was failing fast,” Berman continues.
Harry filed an appeal, but sadly passed away before his case was resolved. The cause of death was listed as pulmonary arrest due to circulation problems. But Berman didn’t stop fighting. The appeal continued.
“We helped Shirley file a new claim for accrued benefits owed Harry at the time of his death and to service connect his death. Both claims were again denied,” explains Berman. “With the assistance of Ken Thie, Director, Veterans Service Office, VFW Department of Florida, we continued Harry’s appeal all the way to the Board of Veterans Appeals. It was eventually remanded to the Appeals Management Center (AMC) for further development.
“The AMC’s review included both newly acquired medical evidence and medical opinions of record. There was medical evidence both pro and con concerning doctors’ opinions on whether Harry’s exposure to cold temperatures during WWII caused him to suffer cold injuries of his lower extremities and, whether his cold injuries ultimately caused or contributed to his death. The evidence of record seemed to be equally balanced,” says Berman.
However, VA regulations state that when there is reasonable doubt (in this case a balancing of medical opinions both positive and negative) the case must be decided in favor of the veteran.
This news of the victory was life-changing for Shirley, who was struggling even more since the death of her husband. She had lost all VA benefits once her husband died.
“As it was, she just couldn’t afford to make ends meet,” Berman says. “Her daughter was helping her cover expenses as she eked by on only a meager Social Security check.”
Thanks to the tenacity of Berman and Thie, Shirley was awarded over $57,000 in retroactive payments and began receiving monthly Dependency Indemnity Compensation Benefits (DIC) of $1,100.
“She was so grateful,” Berman concludes. “It was humbling. She was so relieved to not have to worry about how to cover basic expenses.”