Fort Myers veteran’s widow facing crippling debt

FORT MYERS, Fla. Laurene Smith lost her husband to cancer just days after Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida.

Smith’s husband, Navy Veteran Gary Smith, was diagnosed with cancer seven months prior to the storm and was undergoing amino therapy.

The treatments were paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Gary was fighting to move forward.

But Smith believes the power outage after the storm accelerated her husband’s death.

“He got overheated and he got up in the middle of the night and he fell right there,” she said.

Smith called the VA and was told to call 911 to get him to the hospital immediately.

Gary passed away five days later and his widow is now faced with a $28,000 bill, with no help from the VA.

“They said that the VA had turned it down…they wouldn’t cover it,” she said. “This is a military man. I’m totally angry at them right now.”

In serious health situations, the department advises veterans to go to the emergency room, the VA said. But it is the hospital’s responsibility to inform them when they treated a critical veteran.

“Our military people are in distressed because they’re not getting the help they need,” Smith said.

The VA community care unit is planning to follow up with Smith about the bill on Friday.

Reporter:John-Carlos Estrada
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Writer:Katherine Viloria
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