Navy veteran denied benefits because he lost military discharge papers

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- A veteran who turns 85 on the Fourth of July never imagined it would be so hard to prove he served in the Navy.

All the Sonoma man wants is for Veterans Affairs to get him a new hearing aid and a pair of glasses. But that's not easy without proof of military service.

"I'm sorry I didn't hear the last...?" 84-year-old Don Foley said.

"Good shape," his wife Margy repeats.

"Oh," said Don. It's become harder over the years for Foley to hear.

"It's gotten progressively worse, but over a long period of time," he said about his hearing.

Foley served three years in the Navy. It's been 60 years since the end of his military service.

Up to now, he's relied on Kaiser for his health needs. But his plan doesn't cover hearing aids, so he turned to the VA.

He also asked for a new pair of glasses.

"He can't see out of these glasses very well. And he can't drive at night at all," said Margy.

"Everyone receives a DD-214 when they are released from active duty," Foley explained. "I got one 60 years ago. I misplaced it."

Without the DD-214, the VA said it could not grant Foley his benefits.

They told him he could find a copy at the National Archives in St. Louis. He showed 7 On Your Side a copy of a request for military records. It's time stamped, received June 22, 2020.

Nearly a year later, his DD-214 still hasn't arrived.

Margy cried out for help and received a sympathetic ear from a military representative at Travis Air Force Base.

"It's supposed to be simple. Something very simple. She finally talked to us and said that she was at a dead end," Margy said.

The frustration increased as month after month passed with no resolution in sight.

"I've been in tears over this. Hours of sitting on the phone. Hours waiting to speak to a human being," Margy said.

With nowhere else to turn, she contacted 7 on your Side.

We reached out to both the VA and the National Archives.

The couple now has a digital copy of Don's DD-214

"It's just amazing. I think it was a simple thing to do, but we couldn't get anyone's attention. Until 7 on Your Side helped us," Margy said.

The National Archives did not respond to our request for comment, but explained to the Foleys that reduced staffing due to COVID restrictions caused the delay.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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