A disabled Vietnam veteran in Cass, Arkansas, was denied financial coverage for pain medication by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for three weeks after he had his leg amputated (video below).
"It's been a hard road," Richard Howard told KATV.
Howard has a prescription for Oxycodone pills, but not the $500 needed to buy them. The VA has turned down this financial coverage.
"That's why I called you," he joked with the news station's reporter. "To see if you had any money."
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According to Howard, he has undergone 19 surgeries related to being exposed to the U.S. chemical weapon Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
"Choppers flew over and laid out their 16-foot arms on either side and sprayed us like cattle," Howard recalled. "Guys were puking, passing out."
Howard acknowledged that an opiod addiction problem exists among veterans, but added: "Under-prescribing is one thing, but total? Not one? Not nothing?"
Howard had to have his leg amputated because of circulation problems created by too many red blood cells.
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Howard is preparing to start rehab with a prosthetic leg, which will likely be agonizing without pain medication.
However, he has a glimmer of hope.
"The nurse called and apologized this morning and said it was her fault," Howard said.
It's not clear how a nurse would have control over VA payments for prescriptions, but Howard's pain medication is expected to arrive by July 1.
He believes one of his U.S. senators' offices may have made a call on his behalf.
The VA has tried to combat opiod addictions and overdoses by cutting the number of vets on opiod medications by 20 percent, and reducing the dosage amounts of these types of medications for about 17,000 vets, PBS' "Frontline" reported in March.
There are approximately 68,000 vets who have an opioid-use disorder, which is about 13 percent of all vets using opiod medications, VA data reports.
There has been an opiod epidemic throughout the U.S. for years as the FDA has approved more and more powerful painkillers, and the CDC has warned of the potential addiction of these same medications.
The FDA announced in February that its plan to reform its process for approving painkillers, which it has repeatedly defended in the past.
The sudden turnaround happened after Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts blocked a Senate approval vote for President Barack Obama's nominee, Dr. Robert Califf, to the head the FDA, reported Reuters.