WRAL Investigates

WWII vet struggles to get life-saving stockings from VA

Posted July 25, 2011

WRAL Investigates

— A simple pair of stockings has helped keep a local World War II veteran alive, but the government agency that provides them said he doesn’t qualify for the leg coverings any longer.

At age 84, DC Lawson is in pretty good health despite his injuries from grenade attacks in WWII.

“Both legs were injured, but the left leg got the worst of it,” he said.

Riddled with blood clots, Lawson began wearing the compression socks in 1966 after his doctors said he needed to have them on every waking hour of the day. He gets new pairs every six months after the old ones stretch out.

“When they are good, you can’t get a hold of them to pull them. They are that tight,” Lawson said.

Veterans Affairs has provided the Jobst body stockings, which cost $400 per pair, since 1966. Then, in June, Lawson said the VA would not allow him or his daughter to re-order the stockings.

“This is life-threatening. If I don’t wear the hose, blood clots are going to my heart and my lungs, and I’m going to die,” he said.

When Lawson called to place his last order, he says he was told he needed a prescription. His daughter, Pam Wilson, tried making some follow-up calls but said she was rarely able to get anybody on the phone. After a month of calling the VA, the office in Salisbury where his records are kept provided no answers.

“I haven’t been called back about anything,” Lawson said.

“It’s just like we’re in a maze of bureaucracy,” Wilson added. “That’s all he’s ever asked for and all he’s ever received, just the stockings.”

WWII vet struggles to get life-saving stockings from VA WWII vet struggles to get life-saving stockings from VA

Lawson and his daughter said they were told at one point that he didn’t qualify for the socks at all, so they called Sen. Richard Burr’s office and WRAL News.

When WRAL News spoke with VA officials, they said they set up an appointment for Lawson for October, but acknowledged that he needed the socks sooner than that. They still couldn’t say why he had been told without warning that he needed a prescription or that he never qualified for the socks in the first place.

Dr. Joe Sutter, chief of management support at the Salisbury VA, later admitted to making some errors in the case and said Lawson does qualify for the stockings and that he does not need a prescription. Sutter said Lawson slipped through the cracks for many years and simply needed to be measured on a regular basis to make sure the stockings fit.

After WRAL’s phone call, Lawson got an immediate appointment last Friday. However, he was not measured during the appointment, which the VA said was necessary. The nurse practitioner took his blood pressure and had him answer questions about his medical history.

Still, the order was made and Lawson said he hopes the uncertainty is over.

“Surely, my country’s not going to let me down now,” he said. “I feel a little bit better, and I feel that they’re going to provide the hose.”

Lawson was 15 when he entered the Marines. He says he saved two men who lost their legs in the foxhole attack in Okinawa, Japan, that left him injured.

“I agreed to give me life when I was a young fella,” he said. “I don’t have long to live, but I want to live a good life."

Lawson said he hopes no other veteran has to deal with the same issues he has. Burr's office also followed up with the VA and told Lawson to expect his order of stockings to come in this week.

VA officials said Monday that they can't talk about Lawson's appointment last Friday until he signs paperwork releasing his file. They said they would mail that to him on Monday.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Titus Pullo Jul 27, 2011

    These are the people who want to be in charge of YOUR health care.

  • jimthorne73 Jul 26, 2011

    Isn't government great?

  • Mark Hayes Jul 26, 2011

    As time passes so does the memory of what you have done for your country,maybe thats what this country needs again initiate the draft back,some people have no idea what it meant to serve let alone care about those that have and do to this day,and many who sit in political offices got out of it with some bogus reason.

  • voiceofreason32 Jul 26, 2011

    This man, like all of us without money and power or controlling a block of voters, is not important to our Republican rulers. A people always get the government they deserve. Enjoy.

    yeah...its the republicans...not the government in general....both groups need to get over themselves, the VA has been a mess since day 1 because of who runs it...the government, democrats, republicans...really? When has the VA been wonderful under either of these parties? But once again...don't let the truth get in the way of your mudslinging

  • ghimmy51 Jul 26, 2011

    This man, like all of us without money and power or controlling a block of voters, is not important to our Republican rulers. A people always get the government they deserve. Enjoy.

  • NCSUPackfan Jul 26, 2011

    I'm glad to see this man was finally able to get his hose. I have to wonder how much WRAL and Kelcey actually had to do with this, however. I am sure the letter to Senator Burr certainly moved things along.

    Last week, Kelcey Carlson incorrectly reported the names of day cares with violations in her "investigative" report.

  • sunshine1040 Jul 26, 2011

    And Mrs Obama's trip to help the vets helped this person out how? by spending money that could be used to really help the soldiers and vets This is not the only vet that needs help with the VA and a phone call will work just as well and be cheaper then a personal appearance

  • johnsmithfamily Jul 26, 2011

    This breaks my heart that this man was ignored until media was contacted..of course anyone is going to say it was a mistake when the media and public gets involved! The VA medical centers in some places in NC do not do thier jobs to our veterans! My father is a Vietnam vet, he was drafted into the military, he did not recieve a choice. He did his duty to this country but now they string him along every month with things like rx refills! It makes me sick that people who are too sorry to help themselves can live off the government but people who really need the help are shoved away!

  • baracus Jul 26, 2011

    "Meanwhile those is congress get free medical for the rest of their lives. Most of them have never truly served their country and putting their life on the line like this man has."

    This is not true. They don't get free medical care while in congress or after they retire.

    As far as blaming Obama goes, the VA has been a bureaucratic disaster for decades.

  • Workingrepublican Jul 26, 2011

    Lets get congress and the senate to lace up their boots and fight so they could earn their free medical...A bunch of two face talking heads is what the really are.