Case illustrates challenges veterans face when appealing for VA benefits
New York, NY -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/18/2016 -- After spending 28 years fighting in the appeals process, 83-year-old Ferdinand Hazewinkel of Lugoff, South Carolina was finally awarded disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on February 5.
Hazewinkel served in the United States Navy from March 1951 to February 1955 in the Korean War, and was assigned to the U.S.S. Holmes County. He received a Combat Action Ribbon for his service. While on board the U.S.S. Holmes County he participated in Operation Ivy, an atmospheric hydrogen bomb test series held at Eniwetok Atoll during autumn of 1952.
Hazewinkel later developed various skin cancers and thyroid disease, which he has long contended were associated with his exposure to radiation during Operation Ivy. The significant amount of time it took for him to receive his disability benefits underscores the struggles faced by many veterans who are also left in limbo when they apply.
"When I first filed, I was in my mid-50s," said Hazewinkel, also the father of a four-year-old daughter. "Now I'm an elderly man in my 80s. I had no idea the process could take so long."
Hazewinkel had no way of knowing the VA would repeatedly deny his claim. He first appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals and then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. His claims were often remanded, denied and then appealed over and over for nearly 30 years. He worked with several attorneys over the decades, all of whom ultimately gave up on the claim except his most recent attorney, Eric A. Gang, Esq. of Gang & Associates.
"It is not uncommon for veterans to file a claim, get denied and give up," said Gang, a veterans' disability attorney in the New York City area. "This case was different. Mr. Hazewinkel's claims were on continuous appeal for 28 years."
Gang said there are many other veterans across the nation with similar stories to Hazewinkel, and they lack the means necessary to get the benefits they deserve by themselves.
"I wish I could say this kind of thing didn't happen very often, but I have seen cases drag on like this before," he said. "The backlog in VA claims is unbelievable, and by the time veterans actually get their benefits they are in their twilight years. These claims need to be processed more quickly."
Hazewinkel expressed his gratitude for finally being vindicated in his case and for his attorney's assistance. He intends to use the money to support his wife and daughter.
For more information about Gang & Associates LLC and the services it provides to veterans, visit the firm's website, www.veteransdisabilityinfo.com.
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