Vietnam vet who served with Senator McCain denied VA dental care

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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Vietnam-era veteran says he has been denied dental care by the Phoenix VA.

Sam Hammerschmidt, 69, was wounded in action while stationed on the same aircraft carrier as Senator John McCain. The veteran is still waiting on the Phoenix VA to help with the combat injury that has been festering for nearly 50 years.

Hammerschmidt says he not only was denied necessary dental care, but also that the VA lost his records. And now, his condition is deteriorating.

It's been decades since he honorably served two tours in Vietnam, but the Petty Officer on board the USS Oriskany remembers the explosion like it was yesterday. "He didn't see me over there and hit me. It went though my helmet and cut my head open," he said of a combat incident. 

Hammerschmidt suffered a concussion on board the carrier, along with a chronic mouth injury that has only deteriorated over the years. He has a swollen abscess on the right side of his jaw, a potentially deadly infection that he says the dental program at VA refuses to treat. "My medical records are gone; they can't find any of it," he said. 

Hammerschmidt says because the VA lost his records, he has been denied all service-related dental care, something he's been trying to achieve since 2009. He says it took six years to get an evaluation, and seven months later, he was denied.  

Even with the help of written letters from fellow seaman on that ship and current Senator John McCain, he still is being denied dental care. He came forward hoping the broken promise he says he received helps others who are much worse off than he is. "Let's keep it in front of them. Let's keep it in front of the public; they need to know," he said.

Paul Coupaud, a Public Affairs Officer and Acting Chief of Medical Media for the Phoenix VA said they are now researching Hammerschmidt's case and that it ultimately comes down to the Veterans Benefits Administration to make the decision about dental care.

Coupaud has also reached out to that department for answers. 

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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