LEANDER, Texas - A Leander U.S. Army Veteran is fighting an even bigger battle back here in the states.
After fighting Kidney Disease for the second time Charles Nelson now a disabled army veteran and his wife Tamara Nelson are working to reform the Veteran’s Affairs Health Care system.
The couple are taking their complaints and ideas all the way up to the White House.
Nelson and his wife Tamara are enjoying a quick bit of peace and quiet before they head to the nation’s capital to speak in front of lawmakers about a bill aimed at helping veterans.
"I don't want my husband’s health in the hands of a doctor up in Washington D.C. telling him what he needs and what he can't do I want it to be in his hands and his decision only,” said Tamara.
Nelson’s was first diagnosed with the disease back in 2000. Doctors said he developed Kidney Disease during his time in South Korea when he was serving in the U.S. Army.
“I had strep throat and it went un treated,” said Nelson. “It's just terrible you can't hardly get up out of bed. I got the itches and insomnia."
In 2000, Nelson underwent a kidney transplant which was donated by his sister.
However, 16 years later his kidney started to fail again. Fortunately, Nelson's son Coty Nelson was a match.
But while fighting for his life, Nelson and his wife found out they would also be going up against the Veteran Affairs Health system.
“There was no sense of him ever having to be put on dialysis we had a person ready to donate immediately and the V.A. just kept putting us off," said Tamara.
The Nelson's were told the only way the V.A. would cover Nelson's and his son's surgeries was if they were done at one of two V.A. hospitals. However, the two hospitals were hundreds of miles away from their home. One hospital was located in Portland Oregon and the other was in Nashville, Tennessee.
but neither one was a good option for the family.
"Seeing him trying to get on a plane, him trying to get back and forth when he’s sick. And all the travel included which is at tax payers expense, the V.A. expense,” said Tamara.
The couple decided to go a different route. They looked into the V.A. "Choice Program,” which was set up for those who live more than 40 miles from a V.A. transplant facility.
But the Nelson’s quickly found out that the surgeries would not be covered.
“The V.A. doesn't pay for a non-veteran help," said Nelson.
Once the family found out the news they had no other choice but to undergo the surgeries and not go through the V.A or the “Choice Program.”
Nelson’s health was quickly decreasing so they turned to the community for support.
“We love our community the Leander area was just amazing. We could have asked for better people,” said Tamara.
Nelson said he hopes this trip and the bill helps bring change to a system thousands rely on.
“It takes getting the word out it's not helping veterans as much as you think. We have to keep fighting the fight. I agree this is a step but it's not all the way,” said Nelson.
He said the issues he’s faced no veteran should have to deal with. Nelson said Veterans should have the right to choose where they’re going to get treatment and not have to worry about the fine print that keeps them from getting the help they need at a reasonable speed.
"Give it back to the veterans make it the veterans choice not a V.A. choice."
The couple will be leaving to D.C. Monday and meeting with congressman John Carter later on in the week.
Both Nelson and his wife Tamara hope this trip will help shed some light on issues that the Veterans Affairs need to fix and improve.
“We see this as a step that will help thousands of vets however, there is still work to be done. We appreciate meeting with Congressman John Carter and that he’s willing to help,” said Tamara.
Veterans Transplant Coverage Act of 2017 states:
This bill authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to: (1) provide for an operation on a live donor to carry out a transplant procedure for an eligible veteran notwithstanding that the live donor may not be eligible for VA health care, and (2) provide for such an operation at a VA or a non-VA facility.
The VA shall furnish to such a donor any care or services that may be required before and after conducting with such procedure.