Press Release

Gillibrand Ends 28 Year-Long Bureaucratic Battle for Saratoga Soldier, Helps Secure Over $40,000 in Unemployment Benefits

Apr 21, 2011

Saratoga, NYAfter a 68 year-old Vietnam veteran waited 28 years for his unemployment and disability payments that were owed to him due to his war-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Saratoga resident finally received $42,000 in retroactive benefits with the help of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Saratoga soldier, who has been out of work for nearly a decade, will also see an additional $2,600 in VA benefits each month going forward.  Senator Gillibrand expedited and strengthened the veteran’s 2007 appeal.

Senator Gillibrand said, “Mr. Lefco served his country with honor and courage, these benefits are long overdue. Like so many of our veterans, Mr. Lefco’s PTSD left him out of work. We must fulfill our duty to the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to protect our country by providing them with the benefits and care they need. I am relieved to hear Mr. Lefco now has the full benefits he rightfully deserves.” 

Mr. Roger Lefco said, “I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand for fighting on my behalf. This marks the end of a 28 year-old battle for my benefits. With Senator Gillibrand’s help, there is hope for New York veterans. They should never give up and keep on fighting for what they deserve.” 

Mr. Lefco served in Vietnam between 1963 and 1966, where he picked up fuel, bombs and explosives for delivery to his own base at Phu Bai. In 1970, Mr. Lefco worked at a New York telephone company until December 2001, when he had to quit his job because of his PTSD. Mr. Lefco filed his first claim for VA benefits in 1983. However, at that time, veterans needed to document specific incidents that may have triggered the disorder.

Mr. Lefco’s daily combat experiences, hearing problems, and exposure to fire mortars did not meet service-related PTSD federal requirements. As a result, Mr. Lefco’s claim for VA unemployment and disability benefits was not granted.

In 2007, Mr. Lefco filed a second request for disability and unemployment benefits.  In 2010, then-Congressman Scott Murphy’s office helped Mr. Lefco navigate the new federal rule change, prompting the VA to confirm that the veteran’s PTSD was in fact service-related. The VA awarded him disability benefits linked to his PTSD. But the second half of his 2007 appeal for unemployment benefits was still pending.

Mr. Lefco, who has been unemployed since 2001, reached out to Senator Gillibrand’s office for help in resolving his appeal that would compensate him for work that he was unable to pursue due to his PTSD and grant him increased access to VA medical resources.

Senator Gillibrand’s office worked with the VA and his former employer Verizon Wireless, Inc. to expedite documentation needed to show he was unemployable due to PTSD. This month, the VA granted the appeal, awarding him $42,000 in retroactive benefits and $2,600 each month going forward. Mr. Lefco also now has full access to medical care from the VA.