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VA investigates years-long delay in handicapped access for Hamburg veteran’s home

The bureaucratic tangle that has delayed government-approved work to make a Persian Gulf War veteran’s home handicapped-accessible will be investigated by the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., announced the probe Thursday into the case of Dale R. Dart, an Army intelligence specialist assigned to a tank unit in the 1991 war. He suffers from multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair in his parents’ Hamburg basement, according to his sister-in-law, Pamela Dart.

The incurable disease that has afflicted Dale Dart, 42, for more than 20 years is attributed to his exposure to depleted uranium used in ammunition U.S. forces fired in the war that pushed Iraq’s invading army out of Kuwait.

Dart lives in the basement of the Clark Street home because it’s the only part of the house that he can access with a wheelchair.

Two years ago, the VA approved a project to build a handicapped ramp and a home addition with an accessible bedroom and bathroom for Dart, but a bureaucratic foul-up at the VA that extended to their contact with the contractors has prevented the work from being completed.

Pamela Dart said that since intervention by Schumer and the staff of Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, with the help of the Western New York Heroes organization, Kaz Construction of West Seneca has completed construction on the exterior of the home addition and the ramp. However, electrical, plumbing, drywall and insulation work is still needed to make the addition livable, and that hasn’t started yet.

The former soldier’s sister-in-law said Craig Carpentry, the Buffalo interior contractor chosen by the VA, is waiting for a government insurance bond before it starts work. Pamela Dart said she didn’t know how long that would take or how long the construction work would last once it begins.

Pamela Dart was pleased to learn of the VA’s plan for an internal investigation.

“We really, really believe this might solve problems for other veterans going through the same thing,” Pamela Dart said. “We’re happy to be the cog in the wheel that made this happen.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com