Brazos Valley veteran exposed to burn pits faces uphill battle to receive treatment
“There are some guys that have died because they never got the treatment, they never got the recognition, their family never got the help.”
FRANKLIN, Texas (KBTX) -Sgt. Maj. Sid Hamid is an Army Special Forces Green Beret with nearly 40 years of honorable service in the United States Military.
Currently enlisted as a reservist, the Robertson County veteran has had his share of medical challenges since leaving active duty.
Sid has been diagnosed with not just one but six of the 23 rare diseases recently covered by the PACT Act enacted last year. Primarily, he was diagnosed with cardiac sarcoidosis, a rare autoimmune disorder that causes cells to clump together into granulomas that disrupt heart function. . He has endured four heart surgeries since 2018 and the disease has spread to his lungs and other organs.
They say a picture paints a thousand words. A photo shared by the Hamid family shows the difference 20 years can bring. In one picture from his time in Afghanistan, shortly after 9/11, he can be seen happy and full of life with two children by his side. The other picture paints a very different story, one Sid says shows how burn pit diseases have robbed him and other veterans of their health, independence, life savings, and more.
The PACT Act makes millions of combat veterans exposed to fumes from burn pits used to burn trash and fuels eligible for care from the VA.
However, for Sid and many other veterans getting that care has been a challenge.
“We were told when we contacted the VA that yeah you can put your paperwork in but it would probably take another six to eight months or year for them to even figure out how to get this process going. So we still haven’t submitted through the PACT Act ‘cause there’s no way to do that right now,” says Sid. “We were lucky enough to have gotten our congressman involved and he got us to submit just a regular VA packet that says hey this guy has these conditions, his doctors say it their professional opinion that this is likely caused by this guy’s military service so we think the VA needs to look at this closer.”
“We’re still in that process. It’s been several months since we started that and right now we have no idea where we are in that process,” said Sid. “We’ve done everything we can and everything we were told to do, so at this point, we’re still waiting to find out what we need to do next.”
Sid’s wife Melissa is his primary caregiver. She says despite the burn pit legislation, thousands of pages of medical records, and letters from doctors from across the country they still had a hard time navigating the claim process with the Veterans Administration. She says paperwork being processed by a third-party vendor for the VA is believed to be the root of their issues.
“He may not have been shot in battle and he may not have had an IED remove a limb but he is slowly dying just the same as anyone injured in action from these toxic burn pit diseases,” says Melissa. “When someone has ultimately fatal illnesses and they’re in advance heart failure even if they don’t look sick the timely processing by that third party company that’s getting paid through our taxpayer dollars to be a middle man I think that’s something the VA can put some attention on.”
KBTX took the Hamid family’s concerns to the Veterans Administration which says they looking into the matter.
“The VA spoke with the Veteran on January 25 about his claim and explained the next steps in the process,” said a VA spokesperson.
The Hamid family says after our calls to the VA they began to see results.
“The VA let us know VES finally uploaded Sid’s doctor exam reports from Sept - I don’t think that would’ve happened without you asking this week so thank you,” Melissa said. “VES is done with their part now & the VA said they’re going to do what they can to expedite their part now. We are grateful.”
Sid says he just doesn’t want any other veteran and their family to go through what he and his wife have endured.
“There are some guys that have died because they never got the treatment, they never got the recognition, their family never got the help,” says Sid.
As Sid and Melissa wait for the next steps they would like to see the process of appointing family members as caregivers become less challenging.
“For me, I would actually like to see a charity actually helps people out like her that are taking care of people like me cause eventually, I think I’ll have VA coverage. I don’t know how long that will take but people like her they’re the ones doing the heavy lifting, they’re taking care of them and the guy that’s injured,” said Sid. " A lot of the things I can’t do for myself she’s the one who does it but there’s nobody else to help her out. She does everything.”
“We actually applied for a VA program where she would have been able to either work part-time and get help from the VA but unfortunately because of the way the process works I can’t get that until the VA process is over,” sid said.
As the primary caregiver, the family depends on her insurance to cover a portion of the medical expenses.
“I mean I’ve got 25% of my heart working so I can’t do a lot of things for myself so she has to take care of me, she has to take care of herself. She has her own medical problems and she does a lot of things for herself,” said Sid. ‘She can’t quit working for the reasons I said before.”
“If she quits working I’m dead. We wouldn’t have any medical coverage,” says Sid. “So if the VA actually takes care of this she can actually quit working and can take care of me and her and not have to do all this extra stuff.”
A spokesperson for the Veterans Administration says additional resources are available for veterans facing challenges with claims.
“VA provides easily accessible resources to inform Veterans about the disability benefits claim, and the VA claim exam process (also known as a compensation and pension or C&P exam). VA sometimes uses an authorized contractor to perform a VA claim exam. Veterans Evaluation Services is an authorized contractor. Veterans can visit the VA Claim Exam (C&P Exam) | Veterans Affairs website to learn more about the purpose of the exam, how we schedule the exam, what to expect after the exam, what to do when the examination experience is not what is expected; and to get answers to other commonly asked questions about the VA claim exam.
Additionally, VA provides Veterans with a VA claim exam video series to educate them on the VA claim exam process and how to prepare for the exam. The video series link is “Your VA Claim Exam: Here’s What You Should Expect.”
There also are numerous ways to apply for VA benefits depending on the type of benefit the Veteran is seeking. VA encourages Veterans to work with an accredited representative who can assist them with the claims process. For more information on how to file a claim for PACT Act service-connected disability compensation, visit the VA Website, specifically The PACT Act And Your VA Benefits | Veterans Affairs.
Any evidence a Veteran would like to have considered with their claim can be uploaded through their www.VA.gov account, sent via fax to (844) 531-7818, or mailed to: Department of Veterans Affairs, Evidence Intake Center, PO Box 4444, Janesville, WI 53547″
If you would like to support the Hamid family as they await VA coverage, a link to their GoFundMe is below.
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