Special Report: Veteran Fights for Mobility


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Navy veteran finally got the custom wheelchair he ordered from the Veterans Administration more than six months after he and his wife ordered it.

Barry and Rose Paul have their memories of his 27 years as a diver. Unfortunately, his mobility is now just a memory, too, after he suffered a stroke.

“I can’t walk too well. I fall down and I go boom.”

The Pauls ordered a custom wheelchair through the Hampton VA in April, and then went around in circles trying to get it.

Photos: Navy vet fights for custom wheelchair

“It was just one thing after another,” Rose Paul said.

She was having a hard time getting anywhere with the staff.

“I’d call and ask about it and didn’t hear anything, so then I’d have to get in the car and drive over and personally speak to somebody.”

In September, Rose Paul discovered the original order had been lost.

“They said there had never been an order until that day.”

The chair arrived in mid-October, but wouldn’t run after the first day.

“I plugged in the charger and the light never went from red to green,” Rose Paul said.

Finally, a representative from the manufacturer arrived this week and got the chair working properly, more than six months after it was ordered. It’s been a relief for Rose and a boost for Barry.

“It’s made a big difference in his attitude, because he had gotten so depressed.”

The hospital’s chief of staff says it has filled orders for about 100,000 pieces of custom equipment in the most recent year, a nine percent increase over the previous year. The hospital’s caseload continues to grow, and until recently, was growing faster than any VA medical center in the nation.

The head of physical medicine and rehabilitation says the wait time for a custom chair should be more like six to eight weeks, and then staff follows up with the veteran and family members on how to operate it. VA staff would not comment on Barry Paul’s specific case.