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'I THOUGHT I WOULD GO TO MY GRAVE WITH THIS INJUSTICE.'

After 40 years of fighting the VA, VFW Appeals Consultant George Sheets helps veteran receive his due.

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 Tommy Gregg

“I was ripped apart in Vietnam. Why am I being rejected?” Marine Corps veteran Tommy Gregg asked himself for 40 years, as the chronic pain in his shoulder worsened. 

Gregg was shot in the shoulder in Vietnam by an AK-47. The bullet tore through the shoulder muscles and ultimately lodged in his lungs.

“The bullet missed my heart by a fraction,” said Gregg, who earned three Purple Hearts for his service.

Gregg spent three and a half grueling months recovering on a hospital ship. In 1969, he made his first attempt at filing a claim with the VA as he separated from the service. He was rated at just 10%.

He filed his claim again later that year and was denied, so he tried appealing in 1981, 1982 and 1985, to no avail.

“I appealed time and time again, but was consistently rejected. I had pretty much lost all hope,” said Gregg. “I felt like a second class citizen.”

In 2011, Sheets came across Gregg’s case and dug a little deeper.

“George was the first person in 40 years to actually pick up the phone and call me about my case to find out what really happened,” Gregg related. “He explained the process. I had complete confidence in him.”

Sheets discovered Gregg had been rated improperly all along. The VA didn’t take into consideration where the bullet first entered—the shoulder—and only rated his chest injury. It was the missing piece no one had caught in all the years since he first filed his claim.  

“No one even considered the shoulder muscles as a separate injury,” said Sheets. “They rated the chest group and ignored the muscle groups in the shoulder. It was a clear and unmistakable error.”

Sheets filed a motion for reconsideration of the 1985 decision by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The motion was granted, and a new decision was rendered in 2012. As a result of the new decision, Gregg was awarded a sizable retroactive payment and received an additional rating for the muscle injury. His overall rating was increased to 50%.

“I thought I would go to my grave with this injustice,” said Gregg. “But George was my angel. He put his heart and soul into it.”

During the Christmas holiday, Sheets received an unexpected card and a large donation to the VFW from Gregg. It was a heartfelt thank you.

“If it wasn’t for the VFW, I wouldn’t have won my case,” said Gregg. “I support the organization that supported me. I just want to give back.”

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