Disabled Veteran Forced to Leave World Competition Twice to Undergo VA Benefit Reviews
OKLAHOMA CITY –Tracy Hines served in the military as a parachute rigger and was injured in an airborne operation in 2007.
After being injured, Hines was medically discharged from the Army and decided to represent her country in another way.
She is now part of the U.S. Canoe and Kayak team, representing the United States in the C1 class of the Canoe Slalom.
“What’s really kind of interesting is the VA now encourages veterans like myself to compete in Olympic discipline and Paralympic discipline sports,” Hines said.
Recently, she was in the Czech Republic for a world cup event when she got a call from LHI, a company that assists the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I got on the phone with LHI and I said, ‘Look, I’m in a world cup event. It’s gonna cost me a lot of money to come back. Can we postpone this for about two weeks?’ And they said, ‘No, you cannot,'” Hines said.
She says she was told that if she missed the evaluation, she would be penalized and may even lose her benefits.
“I actually missed a world cup to come back for a benefits evaluation,” she said.
Fearing that she would lose her medical benefits, Hines says she was forced to fly back to Oklahoma City to visit the VA for the evaluation. ‘Is this it before I go back? I can’t afford to come back again,” she said.
“I says [said] ‘Is this it before I go back? I can’t afford to come back again,” she said.
After completing the benefits evaluation, Hines says that she went back to compete in the Czech Republic and received another call.
“I went back. Not more than two weeks later I got a call from LHI telling me that my benefits were again, benefits that I’ve already been evaluated for and been rated for, were up for review again,” Hines said.
Hines says she was forced to come back to Oklahoma City again.
“I saved my money to go to race,” she said. “As an athlete in an Olympic discipline sport that’s small, in canoe and kayak, we don’t get very much funding at all. And so I used the sole amount that I get from the VA for hurting myself, serving my country to try and be a good sport ambassador for this nation.”
To add insult to injury, Hines says when she began researching the doctor who would be evaluating her, she found out that the doctor had previously been in trouble with the law.
“The first thing I found was here on this psychiatric crime site,” Hines said.
The article detailed a case from 2012 in Cleveland County involving prescription drug fraud. NewsChannel 4 called the Cleveland County district attorney’s office and found that the case had been expunged from her record.
Court records in Oklahoma County claim that the doctor was found with marijuana in the presence of a minor. However, charges were never filed in that case.
No matter what happens legally in the case, Hines says the doctor should not be treating veterans, who would be dishonorably discharged from the service if they were caught with marijuana.
“Hold them to that same standard that you’re holding me at least, please,” she said.
NewsChannel 4 reached out to the VA for more information about LHI and the process, but we have not heard back.