Texas Widow Of Air Force Veteran Continues Couple's 4-Year Fight With VA For Benefits

| by Jared Keever
VA Seal.VA Seal.

A Texas widow is still waiting to hear if the Department of Veterans Affairs will extend benefits to her and her family nearly two weeks after her husband, an Air Force veteran, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

TheBlaze reports Janie Michels' painful waiting game is a continuation of a struggle that she and her husband endured for the last four years. 

She told KLTV News that her husband, Bradley Michels, served his country from 1986 to 1996. Shortly after getting out of the Air Force, she said they started noticing changes in his health. 

“I noticed his health decline right after he got out of the military … right after he cleaned up after Desert Storm,” Janie said from her Frankston, Texas home. “He started having neurological problems … he had a slurred voice sometimes, and he started having cramps in the balls of his feet that went into his knee and into his thigh.”

The two suspected that ALS was causing the problems but VA doctors refused to test for the disease, she said. As his condition worsened, they filed for disability benefits in 2010. They were twice denied. 

Janie said they continued to ask her husband’s doctor to test for ALS.

“In the beginning, he [the doctor] said he didn't know what was wrong,” she explained. “After a lot of pushing, he said it was not ALS and that it was psychosomatic.”

Then, in December, a neurologist agreed to the tests. They came back positive for ALS.

It was bad news for the 47-year-old husband and father, who died just a couple of weeks after receiving the diagnosis. 

The couple filed a new claim for benefits after the diagnosis, but the widow is still waiting to receive word if they will be granted. 

Janie says her husband’s death is made all the more painful because he died not knowing whether his benefits were secured for his family. 

“He died without the peace of knowing that we were going to be OK,” she said.

Jim Richman, a representative from the Texas Veterans Commission, an advocacy group for veterans, is helping the widow negotiate the bureaucracy. He says she is not alone in her struggles.

“The system is unnecessarily complex and sometimes chasing down specific pieces of evidence is quite time consuming,” Richman said. 

But money is starting to run out for Janie, who supports three children.

“We shouldn't have to fight anymore,” she said. “This is just wrong. We have no way to pay rent and utilities, no way to buy groceries.”

Sources: TheBlazeKLTV News / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons