Today, like most days, there is an abundance of news regarding the state of veteran’s affairs in the nation. The latest breaking story from the Boston Globe is heartbreaking to say the least. The article titled, Bed Sores, neglect, alleged abuse: inside the Bedford Nursing Home, sheds light on the unfortunate and downright immoral actions that took place in a VA nursing home. The article is disturbing and raises many questions about how it got this bad at the VA. The alarming article came as a shock to most it readers, except for people like attorney Natalie Khawam.
Natalie Khawam, founder of the Whistleblower Law Firm, knows all about these types of injustices that the members of the military face when dealing with the VA. Her firm specializes in helping veterans navigate the long and often times arduous process of dealing with the veterans claims process. She understands that her client’s often times do not receive the proper and appropriate benefits. Veteran’s often times suffer and have even died because of issues with the benefit process at the VA.
The article delves deeply into the issues that happened at this particular VA nursing home but also talks about the retaliation taken against the whistleblower who spoke out about the abuse that she had witnessed. The VA nursing home, located at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, is the lowest rated nursing home for VA. It has a one star rating based on surprise inspections that revealed several instances of neglect, poor quality of care, and the mistreatment of patients. These transgressions came to light when a whistleblower stepped forward to report the disgraceful conditions of the nursing home.
The whistleblower was promptly fired. This is an all too unfortunate yet common response to people who decide to come forward with their tales of fraud and corruption. Whistleblowers should be applauded and awarded for their bravery when they come forward because they are helping to stop abuse and waste like the examples listed in that article. Instead they are maligned by their place of work and then ostracized. They are often threatened with legal action, their livelihood is taken away and they face threats of jail time. Attorney Natalie Khawam and her firm see this same sad story all the time. The firm focuses on whistleblower laws and VA issues.
Most recently, Natalie Khawam was retained by veteran Gunnery Sergeant Peter Nolan after he faced with his own form of injustice. Nolan was a 17-year Marine when he was determined to be 100 percent disable from his injuries sustained during Iraqi Freedom. However, the Department of Defense deemed him fit for duty. The contradiction left him unable to serve and he was discharged from duty.
As gunnery Sgt. Peter Nolan was in the Marine Reserves when he was called up to fight in Iraq and he drove a 26-ton amphibious assault vehicle from Kuwait to Baghdad. During his time fighting in Baghdad, he was knocked unconscious after a massive explosion. He described the experience as devastating and he didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. He suffered from extreme nausea, vomiting and headaches for days. When he came home, his health issues increased dramatically. He had severe headaches, mood swings, balance issues, and he couldn’t sleep. He was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
After his experience in Iraq, he was deployed to Africa where his experiences there continued to aggravate his health issues. There he saw dead bodies and suffered a spinal injury, and experienced knee and shoulder problems, and had stomach and hearing issues. For ten years, he tried work through the issues but he found it very difficult.
In 2014, he was hospitalized after his experience symptoms that he believed stemmed from the traumatic brain injury he suffered from the exposition in Iraq. He was in the hospital for 3 months because he was suffering from PTSD. Another year went by and he was hospitalized again for mental health issues and got a back surgery. After his time being hospitalized, he went underwent the Marine physical evaluation boards. He was found to be fit for duty but the Department of Veterans Affairs gave him a temporary disability rating of 100 percent.
Despite the contradictory findings as to whether Nolan was fit for duty, he was ultimately found to be fit for duty and he appealed because he knew he was not fit for service. His appeal was denied and was discharged from active duty in February 2017. He did not receive any severance pay or any retirement benefits. He had a family and a wife that he needed to support. He found it difficult to find a job and his suffering continued until the Whistleblower Law Firm stepped in.
In October of 2016, Natalie Khawam and her firm took on Nolan’s case pro-bono because the firm proudly supports the members of the military and specializes in helping vets to navigate the Veterans Claims Process. Also supporting Nolan was U.S. rep Charlie Crist D-St. Petersburg who also helped to intervene on behalf of the young Marine. Thanks to both Khawam and Crist, Nolan was able to get placed on the Navy’s temporary retirement list and was able to get 100 percent of his VA benefits.
The state of affairs for veterans in this current climate is very disparaging. Vets are faced with numerous injustices and there is no better story highlighting this fact then Peter Nolan’s story. Thankfully, people like attorney Natalie Khawam and U.S. Rep Charlie Crist were able to intervene on behalf of this young man. But it shouldn’t take extreme efforts like this in order for Veterans to receive the benefits that they deserve. The system needs to be fixed so situations like the ones mentioned above don’t ever happen again.