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VA Agrees To Bring Veteran Home After Decade-Long Struggle For Care

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DALLAS (CBS11) - The letter from the Dallas Veterans Administration in November was the one Vicky Ray was waiting for. Her son had been approved for neurobehavioral care at a rehab facility in North Texas.

She thought he might be home for the holidays, but it didn't happen.

The struggle to navigate bureaucracy and approve funding was just another hurdle for a race to recovery Chad Snowden has run for more than 12 years. It had to work though, Ray said. It's the only option.

Chad Snowden
Chad Snowden - Army veteran from Weatherford (CBS11)

The Weatherford High School grad wanted to be a pro golfer when he was shot in the head in Iraq with the Army in 2004. Ray said no one gave him much of a chance to survive initially, or during his hospital stay in Germany.

He made it back to the United States though, and started on a treatment path that never seemed to help.

He was moved to Virginia, then a rehab program in Dripping Springs, Texas. There was a mental illness program and a psych ward and a nursing home, and at one point Snowden was allowed to live on his own in an apartment.

"I don't think they understood really what was needed for him," Ray said. "All you're doing is getting drugs and talking to a counselor. You're not getting the proper rehabilitation that a brain-injured person needs to get."

He was married at one point.  He also got in trouble with the law. There was another program in Arkansas, and he got in trouble again.

Dr. Jeffrey Hastings, the Chief of Staff for the Dallas VA, told CBS11 the last decade was full of attempts to try something different for Snowden, to see it if helped.

"His care has taken longer, for sure, that's a different part of it," said Hastings. "He's been through multiple programs."

When it didn't work, Ray took over, raising money for treatment at the Eisenhower Center for traumatic brain injury treatment in Michigan.

"I believe they thought he would not make it through this program, but Chad did," Ray said.

Hastings said it's better that family is involved in the treatment for brain injury victims, and that the VA tries to be cooperative with them.

So when Ray requested Snowden be moved closer to home, the VA approved the move through the VA Choice program. It was started in 2014 to allow veterans to get care immediately that VA facilities can't provide.

However, the Pate Rehabilitation facility in Anna didn't accept Medicare and TRICARE which administers the program for VA, so it wouldn't cover the cost. Dallas officials had to figure out a way to purchase care directly from Pate.

During the last five years, the Dallas VA has steadily increased the number of veterans approved for community care, from a little more than 15,000 consults in 2013, to an estimated 38,600 in 2017.

The cost has gone from nearly $53 million, to an expected $126 million this year.

This week, the Dallas VA got the deal done.

Snowden flew back to Texas with his mom and checked in to his new home. It was not a simple arrangement and one that will have to be renewed in a year, unless a long-term agreement can be reached.

Ray hopes the arrangement might open the door for other veterans struggling to find the right care.

"I don't care how much they have to spend. My son and every veteran that serves this country deserves the best care and they should have got it from the very beginning," said Ray.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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