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Paducah veteran incensed over denial of benefits

BY ANDREA MOORE amoore@paducahsun.com

Paducah Navy veteran Shelley Keeling, 67, is disheartened and angry that his claim for unemployability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs has been denied for three years and that he now has to appeal for a third time.

"The VA denies you until you give up or until you die," Keeling said. "So many of my friends that are veterans have just given up."  

Keeling, who served in the Navy six years, was injured in 1965 while stacking large crates of lockers and believes that the injury led him to be diagnosed with degenerative arthritis of the cervical and lumbar areas in his back.   

Keeling said he lives on his minimal Social Security benefits and was denied his unemployability benefits with the VA back in 2009.  He then went through a long journey of appealing in 2010, 2011 and 2012.   

"I sent a letter as evidence to the VA from my doctor, Robert Barnett, that states that I am no candidate for the labor market, that I cannot lift, bend or stoop and that I can hardly touch my knees with my fingertips," Keeling said.  "But the VA doctors denied my claim and said that I could be a painter."

"I cannot even bend, but the VA thinks I can paint houses. That is ridiculous,"  Keeling added.

According to Keeling, he worked at a plant in Calvert City for many years after leaving the Navy, but eventually had to quit due to his injury getting progressively worse.

"I joined the Navy voluntarily and I was proud to join," Keeling said.  "I swore my allegiance to my government and in return they said they would provide for me if I was injured."

"I feel like they broke the agreement," Keeling added.

Keeling said that he has contacted several Kentucky government leaders over his claim but has not been successful in getting the help he needs.  

"The most cruel part of this is how the VA keeps you hanging on, waiting for a favorable decision," Keeling said. "Every time you get excited you get smacked right back down."

"It makes me sick to my heart how veterans are treated," Keeling added.

Keeling said that he plans on filing a federal lawsuit if he is denied again. 

Attempts to contact the VA benefits division for comment were unsuccessful.      

Contact Andrea Moore, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8684.

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