World War II veteran Sidney “Sid” Hardy, who for decades fought bureaucracy at the Department of Veterans Affairs over benefits, learned this past week that he didn’t have to pay a 2014 medical bill he believed the VA should have paid.
Hardy, who is 93 and lives in Breaux Bridge, filled out paperwork this week and sent it back to Lafayette General Medical Center’s billing office, which is going to waive the $1,216 bill.
“I ain’t paying nothing,” Hardy said Friday. “They (VA personnel) sent me from the VA clinic to that hospital.”
Hardy was feeling weak and dehydrated on Dec. 5, 2014, and got a ride from Breaux Bridge to the caregivers he was used to at the VA clinic in Lafayette.
“I don’t feel good,” he told VA personnel at the clinic on Jefferson Street. An on-call doctor said Hardy should be admitted into the Alexandria Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Pineville, over 80 miles north of Lafayette, but Hardy didn’t have a ride. So the VA told him he could check into any emergency room in Lafayette, where the VA would pay 100 percent of any treatment he required.
At Lafayette General, he gave the admitting nurse his Medicare card instead of his VA card. Medicare, the government-backed insurance for the elderly, does not pay 100 percent of a hospital stay. In Hardy’s case, Medicare paid for around 85 percent of the almost $8,000 bill, and Lafayette General billed Hardy for the remainder, which totaled $1,216.
Hardy said he ignored the bill for almost a year because he believed the VA would pick up the remainder of the bill. But the VA doesn’t pay partial bills, VA Public Affairs Officer Tammie Arnold said and added that the VA pays 100 percent or it pays nothing.
Lafayette General spokesman Daryl Cetnar said this past week the hospital had decided to erase the balance of Hardy’s bill.
Hardy has earned his VA benefits. He fought in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army campaigns at Normandy and northern France, where the bloody, frozen Battle of the Bulge was waged. He was captured and spent the last 102 days of the war in a German prison camp, where a Nazi SS officer smashed out his front teeth with the butt of a rifle.
But for decades after the war, Hardy received no veterans benefits from the VA because a fire at a St. Louis military facility destroyed records, including those documenting Hardy’s service. Sixty-seven years after WWII ended, in 2012, the VA finally acknowledged Hardy’s service and gave him the benefits that were denied him.
Hardy said Friday that next on his agenda is agitating for a full-fledged VA hospital in Lafayette.
“I’m going to tell you one thing, and you can put this in your little book there, I ain’t through with that VA. I’m going to step on their toes,” Hardy said. “They don’t want to build us a hospital. They’re going to build us what they call a super clinic.”
The VA earlier this year said it would build a new VA clinic on Ambassador Caffery Parkway by 2016.
Hardy said a clinic, no matter how modern, is not the hospital that the area’s many military veterans deserve. If the VA can’t build a full-fledged veterans hospital in Lafayette, then he’ll lobby for a stand-by ambulance at the new clinic for round-the-clock transport to Alexandria.
“Right now, you have to drive yourself,” Hardy said. “And if you’re too sick to drive yourself, they’re supposed to ship you right straight to Alexandria.”