NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It took more than two years, but the office of Veterans’ Affairs has finally come through with a new wheelchair for a Vietnam veteran from Staten Island.
The new wheelchair was delivered to Michael Sulsona as his home in Graniteville on Tuesday.
It came a week after Sulsona’s old wheelchair fell apart while he was shopping at the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center on Forest Avenue in Mariners Harbor, where three employees quickly jumped in to help.
“They placed me in another chair while they went to work,” Sulsona wrote in a letter to the Staten Island Advance. “They took the wheelchair apart and replaced the broken parts and told me, ‘We’re going to make this chair like new.'”
Sulsona told 1010 WINS the workers went out of their way to fix his chair.
“They got the perfect bolt that fit right in the frame of the wheelchair, made sure it was well-balanced, had me roll around and when I thanked them, they said it was their honor,” Sulsona said.
Sulsona, who lost both his legs after stepping on a land mind in Vietnam in 1971, said he doesn’t want to blame the VA for not getting him a new wheelchair sooner.
“The VA’s got their own problems,” Sulsona said. “There’s a long line of people before us looking to rip them and they’re so overwhelmed for whatever reason.”
The veteran said he doesn’t know if the publicity surrounding his experience at Lowe’s prompted the VA to give him a new wheelchair.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the New York Veteran’s Association issued the following statement to Buzzfeed:
“We were very sorry to hear about the reported circumstances surrounding Mr. Sulsona’s request for a new wheelchair. We quickly investigated and can report the veteran’s new custom wheelchair was delivered to him today and it along with his back up will be serviced by the VA as needed.
“Too many Veterans wait too long to receive their care and benefits, and this has never been acceptable. Providing Veterans like Mr. Sulsona the quality care and benefits they have earned through their service is our most important mission at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
This has been a rough year for the VA.
In May, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned following a scathing report alleging VA officials falsified key records. The scandal centered in Arizona, where a preliminary VA inspector general’s report found 1,700 veterans at the VA Hospital in Phoenix were not put on the official wait list after requesting an appointment.
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