Retired staff sergeant receives Purple Heart, still no benefits - KCTV5

Retired staff sergeant receives Purple Heart, still no VA disability benefits

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It's been more than two years since Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Crozier nearly died when his helicopter crashed in Afghanistan.

He underwent rehabilitation, got a Purple Heart and an outpouring of support from his community. What Crozier doesn't have is his Veterans Administration disability benefits.

Crozier was 41 days into his second tour in Afghanistan when a Chinook Helicopter went down in July 2011.

"You have to put it in perspective. The ones that aren't lucky, the ones that aren't here. I think about that every day," he said.

Crozier suffered a severe brain injury that required rehab. This week he received a Purple Heart.

"That gives me closure. It actually feels like I'm recognized by the government," he said.

But at the same time Crozier feels ignored by the same country he fought for, after failing to receive his disability benefits, causing a financial hardship that weighed heavily on his family.

"Now I've got to suck up my pride and ask for help at times and who wants to do that, you know? It's been a struggle," he said.

He officially retired from the military in July 2013. Processing of his claim was expected to take just two months, but that claim was part of a huge backlog caused in part by increased filings and not enough staff to process them all.

"My claim's in Seattle. (When he's tried to call them) They don't want to talk to you. They'll get to it when they get to it," Crozier said.

But someone has gotten to his claim. Thursday afternoon Crozier learned his claim was finally processed and he's expected to receive the initial paperwork within 10 days.

"To sit here and have to wait and hope and pray that it comes through and everything, that's what frustrating to me," he said.

The Veterans Administration says it has corrected the problem and reduced the backlog from nearly a million claims to about 700,000. Crozier said Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder helped expedite his claim.

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