TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Combat veteran Mike Duplisea waited nearly two years to get a medical examination for a disability claim after a stroke put him in wheelchair and stole his ability to talk.
Duplisea’s brother-in-law Jason Bucy helped him file the paperwork with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Bucy said the long-awaited appointment was granted after an 8 On Your Side report on Duplisea’s plight, but he did not think it went well.
“The doctor was asking us a million and a half questions even though I told him he was non-verbal,” Bucy said “It made it incredibly difficult to get through the first part of the exam with the doctor.”
You met Duplisea on Fourth of July when he told his story with only a few words.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said enthusiasticlly to a question about loving his country.
But he answered “no” when asked if he would serve again.
Duplisea indicated he felt “forgotten” after he did not receive a response to his 2021 filing. He had claimed 11 medical issues, including the stroke, were service connected.
The VA told 8 On Your Side the claim was denied only months after it was received, but Bucy said no one told him or his brother-in-law.
“We didn’t know anything about it,” Bucy said. “After the story aired, we got five appointments [with James Haley VAMC in] Tampa.”
It got much better for Duplisea a short time after those difficult examinations.
The VA has informed him he is now considered 100% disabled due to service-related PTSD and he will soon receive monthly and accrued benefits dating back to 2021.
“He cried when I told him,” Bucy said.
There are supplemental claims still under consideration, but Bucy said he does not expect them to impact the case.
Duplisea’s family blamed communication issues and a lack of outreach by the VA for the initial denial and the delay that followed.
Julianna Boor, Director of the Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office in St. Petersburg, addressed the communication issue at a news conference about a Pact Act deadline.
“I would say working with the family member, potentially their physician to see what we can do to get the information from the veteran in the best way possible,” Boor said. “Without impacting their medical issue.”
Duplisea’s claim involved toxic exposure, but he filed it before the Pact Act passed last August. Veterans must file their Pact Act claim by Aug. 9 to be eligible for a year of back benefits.