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Schumer helps Persian Gulf War veteran from Hamburg with home’s handicapped access

Dale R. Dart, a Persian Gulf War veteran from Hamburg, has been waiting for two years for the Department of Veterans Affairs to build the handicapped-accessible bathroom and bedroom that he was promised.

On Monday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is to visit Dart’s Clark Street home to announce that after a letter to the VA last week, the agency finally has chosen a contractor to perform the work.

Schumer also is expected to ask the VA’s inspector general to investigate the department’s practices in regard to its home improvement benefit programs, in hopes that problems such as Dart’s won’t be experienced by other veterans.

Dart, 42, uses a wheelchair because of his multiple sclerosis, which Schumer’s staff said was linked to the U.S. military’s use of depleted uranium in weapons that Dart encountered during his time in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Two years ago, according to Schumer’s office, the VA approved construction of improvements both inside and outside Dart’s home to make it wheelchair-accessible.

The veteran has been largely confined to the basement of his parents’ home because it was the only accessible space in the house.

Kaz Companies of West Seneca, chosen by the VA as the sole contractor for the project, broke ground last month. However, the VA also informed Dart that a second contractor was needed for the inside work because it was actually being funded by a different VA program than the exterior work.

The exterior work was approved under the VA’s Specially Adapted Housing program, while the inside work was approved under the VA’s Independent Living program.

“The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, and the result is interminable delays, poor communication and no wheelchair-accessible home for Mr. Dart, which is something he needs and deserves in thanks for his service to this nation,” the senator said in a news release.

Schumer took the VA to task because of the bureaucratic situation, which resulted in work stopping Tuesday on the accessible addition to the house.

The second contractor will be responsible for hardwood floors, wiring, plumbing and related indoor work.

“It seems one element of the VA is not communicating with another element of the VA, and neither is doing an acceptable job of communicating with this veteran and his family. The Dart family should have been made well aware of any requirements when the project was first approved two years ago,” Schumer wrote to the VA.

A relative answering the phone at the house Sunday said that Dart was not available to comment.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com