October 19, 2020

Mississippi veteran said VA wouldn’t pay for prosthetic legs so they were repossessed, then returned

An Army veteran in Mississippi who served in Vietnam and Iraq says a dispute over payments has left him unable to use a pair of expensive prosthetic legs.

Jerry Holliman, 69, told the Clarion Ledger the Veterans Affairs department wouldn’t pay for the legs. And he says he doesn’t think he should have to make a Medicare co-payment.

“Medicare did not send me to Vietnam,” Holliman said. “I was sent there by my country … with the understanding that if something bad happened to me, that it would be covered by the VA.”

The dispute led to legs being repossessed at one point. They were returned to Holliman later but he says the vendor won’t make needed adjustments.

The VA and the vendor have declined comment on Holliman’s case, citing privacy laws.

Holliman said he got a pair of prosthetic legs in August from a company called Hanger, which has offices in Hattiesburg.

He started going through rehab at the nursing home.

After a few sessions with the Hanger staff, Holliman said he was told the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would not pay for his prosthetic legs.

On Dec. 23, an employee from Hanger came to the Veterans Home to see Holliman. Holliman said the man asked him to sign some paperwork for Medicare.

Holliman said he declined because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should pay for the legs in full. The man responded by taking the legs away, Holliman said.

Holliman said the legs were returned to him hours after he spoke to the Clarion Ledger at the veterans home in Collins on Jan. 2. But Holliman said the company won’t make needed adjustments enabling him to use the legs.

While in Vietnam, Holliman said, he was exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical the American military used to kill vegetation.

The chemical has been linked to diseases suffered by soldiers. Holliman has survived cancer and diabetes. His right leg was amputated in November 2018; the left, the following April.

Susan Varcie, a spokeswoman at the VA Medical Center in Jackson, said she could not comment on Holliman’s case due to privacy laws.

When the Clarion Ledger initially out to Hanger, spokeswoman Meghan Williams, she said federal privacy laws prevented Hanger from speaking about individual clients.

“It is our policy, in accordance with regulatory guidelines, to follow up with every patient we see and make necessary device adjustments through delivery and for at least 90 days afterwards,” she said in a statement. “We are committed to empowering human potential, and want to see our patients regain their mobility and independence.”

That’s not what Holliman said he was told.

The legs are basically useless if Hanger won’t make any more adjustments, Holliman said, and without those adjustments, he’s stuck at the Veterans Home.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid for a motorized wheelchair for Holliman a few years ago, he said. It helped get him into the kitchen of his Hattiesburg home using a ramp in his garage, but the rest of his house is not wheelchair accessible.