EL PASO, Texas —
Navy veteran Rik Villarreal had given up on the VA as well. Twenty years after a torpedo nearly crushed his hand, he lives with chronic pain. When the VA closed his case, the document also acknowledged he had Complex Regional Pain Syndrome — the same diagnosis he received from a private neurologist to which the VA had sent him.
“I appealed, but they didn’t return my emails. They tire you out, you get to a point where you say: ‘The VA wins.’ That’s when you give up,” he said.
His mother encouraged him to go to the El Paso crisis center — “Mijo, you gotta get over there,” he said she told him — where he sat with an American Legion attorney who told the VA representatives to reopen his case.
When told he might be due some retroactive payment, Villarreal shrugged it off: “I don’t want money. All I want is treatment for the pain.”
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