Corinth, NY – After a bungled application process left a disabled 46 year-old veteran waiting years for VA benefits, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, successfully expedited Daniel Sweet’s case, securing nearly $3,000 in monthly benefits for the Saratoga soldier and approximately $23,000 in retroactive benefits over the past year. Senator Gillibrand is now taking on a new fight for the veteran, pushing the Veterans Affairs to reopen Mr. Sweet’s 2008 appeal so that he can claim the remaining two years of retroactive benefits, which amounts to tens of thousands of dollars.
Senator Gillibrand said, “We must fulfill our duty to our veterans and their families who have made incredible sacrifices protecting our freedom by providing them with the support and care they need. I am relieved that Mr. Sweet finally received his disability benefits going forward and I will fight for the benefits he was owed these past years.”
Mr. Sweet said, “It’s disappointing that after serving my country, I’ve had to wait years for benefits that I was owed. I cannot thank Senator Gillibrand enough for fighting on behalf of myself as well as all the other veterans that have been waiting for so long.”
Mr. Sweet, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suffers from chronic knee, hip, feet, neck and back pain, applied for disability benefits in 2008. The veteran’s physical conditions worsened, forcing him to leave his job at Target without health insurance for him and his wife.
In February 2011, Mr. Sweet reached out to Senator Gillibrand’s office for help. Senator Gillibrand’s office discovered that, unbeknownst to the veteran, his appeal had been closed, which automatically voided the veteran’s right to retroactive benefits between 2008 and 2010, and a new claim had been filed in 2010, placing Mr. Sweet at the bottom of the waiting list and forcing him to undergo a new round of medical exams.
Senator Gillibrand’s office provided the VA with missing information, including a full list of Mr. Sweet’s disabilities and his correct social security number, and successfully expedited his 2010 case, securing $2,823 monthly benefits for the Saratoga soldier. Mr. Sweet can now pay his bills. He and his wife now receive medical insurance through the Veterans Affairs’ health benefits program.
The VA’s New York City office, which oversees Mr. Sweet’s case, recently denied Senator Gillibrand’s request to reopen his 2008 appeal, making him ineligible for two years of retroactive benefits. Senator Gillibrand is now appealing the denial.
Between 1983 and 1987, Mr. Sweet served in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, among other places, as gas turbine technician in the U.S. Navy. He lives with his wife, Kathleen, and has two children, Renee, 29 and Justina, 28.