TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Veterans Affairs Administration relented on repeated denials for a retired Marine, granting him a long-awaited disability claim.
Stephen Nemeth, 78, of Tampa, came to 8 On Your Side about a month ago after five years of trying to convince VA clinicians the ailments he suffered from were service related and left him 100 percent disabled.
According to records, Nemeth fought in 16 Vietnam combat missions, including one gruesome battle in Khe Sanh.
“There wasn’t many of us who got off the hill alive,” Nemeth said.
He came home with medical issues, including PTSD and neuropathy, that about two years ago knocked him off his feet and left him tethered to an oxygen tank.
“And he would fall, and we didn’t know why,” his wife Ann said, fighting back tears. “I’m sorry. I get so emotional.”
Within days and 8 On Your Side inquiries to the VA, Nemeth was declared 100 percent disabled and received back benefits, and a monthly increase as well.
“It was shocking,” Ann Nemeth said. “Why did it take not even two weeks as opposed to five years?”
Ann Nemeth also said a VA official told her that her husband will be receiving a monthly stipend to pay for in-home nursing.
Nemeth, who is confined to a wheelchair, was not feeling well when 8 On Your Side asked him about the positive news, but he was “thankful.”
“He is having a bad day,” his wife said. “Thank you so much for everything that has happened in the last month. It is truly amazing and I am just speechless about it. It was one of those things where we couldn’t believe it and it actually happened.”
But there is another fight underway.
A document mailed to Nemeth more than two years ago states that he was granted a request to restore his rank of corporal, but that apparent decision is only on paper so far.
“We’re not asking for anything more than what he deserves,” Ann Nemeth said. “He was a leader, not a private. When he served he led other [Marines].”
Her husband was blunt when asked if he still wants the rank restored.
“Damn right,” he said.
Sadly, his wife said the main reason they want the higher rank is so his “headstone will read corporal.”
“Oh, he knows,” she said. “We talk about it all the time. That’s how he should be remembered.”
Marine Corps Communications Officer Yvonne Carlock said “administrative actions have been made” in Nemeth’s rank case.
“The team is working on an official response to Corporal Nemeth,” Carlock said. “I’ll be in touch again soon.”