An 87-year-old Air Force veteran living near Sanford has been granted nearly $250,000 as a result of an error by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back to October 1962.
“I didn’t know they denied it way, way back,” Charles Robertson said Monday. “I had just given up hope of ever seeing anything until I got in touch with (Carmella George).”
George, the daughter of a veteran, is the founder and CEO of Jacksonville Veterans Disability Services, an organization that represents veterans seeking rating increases or whose claims are unjustly denied, according to a news release.
When Robertson enlisted in the armed forces in 1955, he wore heavy cataract correction bifocal lenses, but was encouraged to be fitted for contact lenses. He later had difficulties with the contact lenses and pursued medical help from the flight surgeon who prescribed new contact lenses in an effort to improve his vision, George said in the release.
But the new contact lenses did not improve his vision and on July 5, 1962, he was honorably discharged from the United States Air Force.
At the time, Robertson, who was based in Arlington, Virginia, was told he would not be allowed to reenlist because of a change in the Air Force’s enlistment criteria. The Air Force said it would no longer accept any person without a focusing lens in the eye, George said.
Robertson recalled being told he would not be allowed to reenlist.
“When I was discharged, I was informed that I was not entitled to any compensation and in short, I was told ‘Thank you for seven years of your life, goodbye,’ ” he said. “At the time, I was married and had two little boys to provide for.”
Robertson said he learned about the Jacksonville Veterans Disability Services from a friend who was assisted by George. He suggested Robertson, a native of Washington state, contact her to see if she could provide assistance for him.
“I’m blessed to have had support from Jacksonville Veterans Disability Services to get the benefits I am entitled to,” Robertson said, “and I hope that my story will encourage other veterans to reach out to organizations like Jacksonville Veterans Disability Services who can help other veterans navigate the complex VA disability claims system.”
What will he do with the money?
“I’m paying off all my debts and trying to kind of save the rest of it to help my wife if something happens to me,” Robertson said.
At one point, Robertson was assigned to Pope Air Force Base, which is now Pope Army Airfield. In 2004, he and his wife made their home in the Carolina Lakes community in Harnett County.
“It’s sad that the VA didn’t step up a long time ago, but fortunately there’s enough people like Ms. George, who can help us get benefits,” Robertson said.