RIVERVIEW, Fla. (WFLA) — Navy Veteran Frank Clark makes a few extra bucks writing science fiction short stories, but it’s hard for him to make up what actually happened to him.
Clark, 74, of Riverview has faced a series of issues securing help that he said he earned when he enlisted during the Vietnam war in the 1960s.
“I don’t think the VA is really designed to help veterans,” Clark said.
After a recent call to the VA from 8 on Your Side, Clark finally won a three-year fight to transfer his care from Tampa’s James Haley to a clinic near his home.
“Twenty-mile round trip versus a 45-mile round trip,” Clark said. “I’m living below the poverty line. I can barely afford gas and my car has a transmission issue.”
Transportation issues have also stalled his eye surgery. The VA does not offer medical transportation from Riverview on the days the surgery is available.
“I can’t get the two departments to talk to each other,” Clark said. “I need the surgery and I need the transportation and neither one of them will budge.”
For Clark, it is a 14-year battle over a traumatic brain injury he said happened after he enlisted at the age of 18.
“I really believe many of the mental issues I’ve had over the years can be traced to that,” Clark said.
But a February letter stated the VA cannot find his “missing service treatment records,” in a search that’s been ongoing for a decade.
The VA has previously acknowledged Clark’s records were pulled but either lost or misplaced.
“And if they’re not making any effort to find the records, they can continually deny my claim,” Clark said. “They are asking me to find the records.”
Clark hopes that benefits, if ever granted, could help him creep above the poverty line and help him repair his home, and cover other necessities he now lives without.
“It’s very stressful,” Clark said. “It’s very depressing.”
Haley Public Affairs Officer Kim Antos said she is looking into Clark’s case.