Dale Dart, a Hamburg-based veteran of Operation Desert Storm now living with an illness linked to his service, is hoping his two-year wait for home renovations through Veterans Affairs is about to end, with a little help from an elected official.
Senator Charles Schumer visited Dart's home Monday, where the New York Democrat announced that after putting some pressure on the VA, the organization will move ahead with a project that includes making Dart's bedroom and bathroom wheelchair accessible.
Dart lives with multiple sclerosis, a condition linked to his exposure to depleted uranium, used by the U.S. military in weapons for purposes including tank and other armor piercing. He has been wheelchair-bound for about three years, and has had limited movement inside his own home.
"Currently my bedroom is down in the basement," Dart said. "I come up and down and get in the wheelchair... it's a pain in the (butt)."
Schumer explained that the VA approved Dart's home remodeling through two programs that would arrange for renovations inside and outside the house. However, each program would bring in its own contractor and, until now, the VA had not secured a contractor for the interior work.
"Anyone who's done any kind of home renovation knows that that just doesn't work," said Schumer. "One contractor can't knock out a wall without talking to the second contractor about how plumbing and electrical might be affected."
Schumer informed Dart on Monday that a second contractor has been secured to resume the project. As for the VA, the senator is calling for an investigation to ensure cases such as Dart's do not happen again.
"Today, I am telling the VA Inspector General to immediately audit this case, explain why it took so long, and make proposals which the VA should adopt so it doesn't happen to anybody else."
Dart, while admitting he is eager to see his case closed and his house finished, expressed broader concern for other veterans who may be facing similar bureaucratic red tape.
"Other veterans who are having this problem, they wouldn't want to deal with all the crap," Dart said. "And you have veterans coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq that are injured and have to deal with this problem. It's not fair."