How the Military Has Repaid Iraq Vets With Permanent Disabilities

Now, he enjoys jumping on a trampoline with his three daughters at his home in Center Point, Texas.

"A year ago I couldn't pick them up at all," Boothby said. "In the last six months, I'd say I've improved a little bit, but not that much."

Since Michael's injury, the Boothbys have been frustrated — even angry — as the military and veterans medical systems strained to meet their needs. When they left a Florida VA hospital to begin therapy at home in Texas, Michael's paperwork was delayed and his condition deteriorated.

Even though he is finally doing much better physically, the Boothbys still have obstacles ahead of them. Just this month, the Boothbys received the Department of Defense ruling that Michael had been granted only a 70 percent temporary disability rating.

That means the family of five — with one more on the way any day now — will have to make due on 70 percent of their previous income.

Boothby's temporary disability rating will be reevaluated annually, even though many of his injuries are permanent. He has traumatic brain injury and has lost more than half of his vision in both eyes.

"He's gonna be blind for the rest of his life. Optic nerves don't grow back. He will never drive. He can't go to work. He can't get to work. It doesn't make sense to me," said Megan, Boothby's wife.

The Boothbys plan to appeal their rating.

'I Was Stunned'

The Landays have appealed their disability rating once already, but they are still fighting.

A year ago, Marine Cpl. Jeff Landay of Sacramento, Calif., could barely speak. Nearly two years ago, a roadside bomb in Iraq ripped through his Humvee and put him in a coma for 30 days, crushing his skull into the left side of his brain, and leaving him with a severe traumatic brain injury.

With a warrior's determination, he has made a remarkable physical recovery, and today, his speech is clear and upbeat. He is getting back into shape and his mother, Michelle, works with him to improve his reading.

"I am not as smart as I used to be, but it is one of those things I can keep working on until I can get back to where I was or get better than I was before," Landay said.

The blast left Landay with liver damage and doctors had to remove both his spleen and damaged tissue from his brain after the blast.

Still, the Landays had to make their case to the Department of Defense that he suffers from a disability.

The answer shocked them.

"Ten percent. I was like, 'wow,'" Landay said.

"I was stunned," Michelle Landay said. "I thought it was a typo. I thought somebody dropped a zero. And we actually called them to confirm that this was the actual rating — it was 10 percent — because I didn't believe it."

Thirty percent is the demarcation above which soldiers receive medical retirement with full benefits and below which they receive a separation payment without benefits.

"He fought for his life and now he is having to fight for his rightful benefits," Michelle said.

Michelle and Jeff are determined to appeal again, armed with boxes and boxes of medical records.

Jeff's life is more than 10 percent affected, Michelle said. "He can longer do what he wanted to do with his life, which was wide open."

The Landays say they worry more about other veterans who do not have the same ability or support with which to fight.

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