Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Submission For The Record of Linda Fraser, Rochester, IN (on behalf of her husband, Floyd Fraser)
My husband Floyd served in the Army from October of 1965 to October of 1967 during which he served in Viet-Nam from May 1966 to May 1967. While in Viet-Nam he was wounded three times, including once in the head and once by being stabbed while in hand-to-hand combat. Floyd was assigned to the 69th signal corps of the 101st Airborne. He was first assigned to be a guard for Gen. Westmoreland, during which his head injury occurred when the compound came under attack.
While in the field, Floyd had heavy exposure to Agent Orange. From this Floyd has suffered a wide variety of problems, from rashes to the diabetes he continues to suffer from. Floyd also suffers with PTSD still today. Thankfully, Floyd has been treated through the VA health system for all his medical problems since 1983. When Floyd first started with the VA Hospital for the seizures he was given 10% disability for Traumatic Head Injury: they also discovered the PTSD; later they would discover the type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, the diagnosis for diabetes came late, and this lead him to develop severe complications, one being neuropathy of his lower extremities that worsened to the point where he totally lost feeing in both legs in 2003.
After discharge from the Army, Floyd returned to work at RCA in Bloomington from 1967 to 1975 when he went to college to become a funeral director and embalmer. Due to PTSD he was unable to continue to work in this area as he was having flashbacks to Viet-Nam and fallen comrades. This lead to his treatment for the PTSD while unemployed. From 1983 to 1986 Floyd returned to college for computer training. Unable to obtain work in that area, he went to work for the Indiana Highway Department, eventually working himself up to Assistant Supervisor over bridges and highways. In 2003 Floyd began having trouble walking and began having difficulty doing his job. He was admitted to VA Hospital in Indianapolis where he was told was having small strokes and had developed the previously mentioned neuropathy, resulting in the total loss of feeling from his feet to just above his knees. At this time he was placed on 100% disability.
In April of 2004 received a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs stating that we were eligible to receive Special Adaptive Housing. We called to the office and spoke with Winston Hunter, setting up an appointment for him to come to our home. I then began looking for contractors. Our son Paul did the blueprints for the job to save money and worked with all the contractors to keep the cost down. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful with getting a contractor in our area to work with the VA because the contractors were unfamiliar with the program and wanted at least one fourth of the cost up front. Finally in the spring of 2005 we went to a builder’s home show in Kokomo and found a contractor, Bergstrom Home Improvements, willing to work with the VA and learn how the program worked. Again our son worked with them on the blueprints.
About two months before the construction started, we gathered all the involved parties and met with Winston Hunter from the VA in our home. At this point we had to go in front of the zoning board for approval, get signatures of neighbors for the okay to build, as well as other approvals from before building could start. While doing this also set up an escrow account with the Title Co. costing us $100.00. Soon after Mr. Hunter, Bergstrom's, and my husband and I all met to sign the papers. In June the contractors started working and were done by the middle of July, even though they ran into unforeseen problems. Our home was built in the 1800s and where the addition was taking place, there was a log cabin area causing more work than anticipated. The first stage went well in doing the foundation; it was the next step in cutting out a window for the new doorway, plus widening a doorway from the living room to kitchen area where problems occurred. Once the problems were under control, they began building a new handicap accessible bedroom and bath. The new rolling shower was great until it was used for the first time and water ran all across room! The contractors did not lower the floor enough to allow for drainage, which was fixed once they returned and placed a strip to stop the flow of water into the room.
In the kitchen we had an island with a range top in the middle. The contractors only moved from center to the wall to give Floyd enough room to get into and out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, this area is still unfinished due to the cost already running over by $5000.00. When doing the heating cooling to save money again the contractor put in flexible piping instead of metal piping. This is not good for homes in the country like ours because wild animals and mice eat through flexible piping. After finishing the rooms the contractors built two concrete ramps, one off the bedroom to serve as an emergency exit and the other off the kitchen. The one off the bedroom the pad was too small for Floyd to use easily to get in and out.
Once the SAH was done it was great for Floyd to be able to get around in our home and become more independent. This is because of all areas that now have a five foot turnaround for his wheel chair. All outlets and light switches are at a level accessible to him. Perhaps most importantly, we were able to get a full-sized bathroom that Floyd is able to use. Floyd is well pleased with the work and SAH program done. For all that great good it has done there were also problems. On a personal level, the main problem was the extra cost we had to pay to finish kitchen area due to cost overruns. My impression is that the cost of the SAH has not increased as rapidly as the inflation of prices to be able to get all done that is needed. The other major problem we encountered was the large number of contractors unfamiliar with the program and unwilling to work with it. According to the contractors we spoke with, one main impediment for them is the way the money was to be given to them in different stages.
Thank you for considering our testimony, and thank you for the assistance this program, despite some hiccups, has provided for myself and my husband.