Local Vet with PTSD Denied VA Benefits

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Marcos Estrada spent five years in the military and a portion of that time was spent in active combat in Afghanistan as a Navy medic.

Like so many others who have returned from active combat, Marcos came home with a diagnosis of PTSD and he says it was the direct result of his experience in Afghanistan.

“I’ve got PTSD. I’ve got all that from combat and it’s an ugly monster to deal with. Every noise I hear that’s a pop or blast, it sends me back in time,” Estrada said.

In November of 2012 Estrada received an honorable discharge for his time served and, that same day, reenlisted.

“I wanted to do 20 years, I wanted to retire from military,” Estrada said.

Three months into that reenlistment problems started to pop up and Estrada says those problems were the direct result of his PTSD. Fighting and relationship problems left Estrada with a second discharge that fell under the category of “other than honorable.”

That other than honorable designation changed his life is a big way. After he returned home and went to the Mather VA for treatment for his PTSD, he was given some very bad news.

“When I went to Mather to be seen by a doctor, they said no you don’t quality for anything,” Estrada told FOX40.

marcos estrada

Marcos Estrada

After five years of service and the paperwork to prove he earned an honorable discharge, the VA was telling him he didn’t earn the medical benefits that could help him deal with his PTSD. The reason for benefits being denied certainly was no secret. When a service member leaves the military with the designation of other than honorable, it leaves that individual with the possibility of all benefits being denied.

“It’s trumping the honorable discharge and trumping everything else. It makes it look like I didn’t serve in the military,” Estrada said.

With nowhere else to turn, Estrada came to the Yolo Community Care Continuum in Woodland. The Continuum is a non-profit safe house for people battling mental illness.

“Even though our people have mental illness, we treat them like they are adults and they have capabilities, we are partners,” program director Michele Kellogg told FOX40.

Together with case workers from the Continuum, Estrada is trying to get his benefits reinstated at the VA. The problem for Estrada isn’t just getting his discharge upgraded, it’s also about getting the VA to recognize the honorable discharge he earned prior to his second release.

The Mather VA could not comment on Estrada’s case specifically but did give us these statements on policy.

If a discharge was not characterized as honorable, benefits are not payable unless VA determines discharge was ‘other-than-dishonorable”. If there was an honorable period of service prior to the other-than-honorable discharge, VA benefits may be payable based on the prior period of service.

And this quote about Estrada’s case:

We are presently looking into the specifics of Mr. Estrada’s case and will be reaching out to the family.   Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.

If you have an issue or concern you’d like FOX40 to investigate, email FOX40Investigates@FOX40.com.

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