Vet amputee caught up in VA bureaucracy finally gets proper prosthetics

Vet walking again

BETHESDA, Md. -- Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Ray Mackey is walking again. It may not look like much, but it beats being stuck in a wheelchair.

“First time in probably over a year I was able to stand for any given amount of time,” Mackey said.

It’s exactly what he was doing the first time CBS News met him seven years ago: Learning to walk after losing both legs to a land mine in Afghanistan.

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Ray Mackey learns to walk again on newly fitted prosthetics. CBS News

Then as now, he was being fitted for prosthetics at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The socket that fits his leg to the prosthesis is what brought Mackey back to Walter Reed after the VA in his home state of North Carolina kept him waiting.

If that wait is too long, his body changes and the socket no longer fits. Mackey says he received six or seven sockets that did not fit because of the delays.

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Mackey holds up a new socket he received at Walter Reed CBS News

Confined to a wheelchair, he finally gave up on the VA. At Walter Reed he got new sockets in less than a week.

“This is probably the most work I’ve done on my legs in a while,” Mackey said during physical therapy.

He has gained a lot of weight and his hips have lost their flexibility.

Wounded vet frustrated with weeks-long delays in local VA

Walking will always be a chore. But it was the inability of the VA to keep him in properly fitting prosthetics that was keeping a good man down.

“They don’t know who they are dealing with. I am just another number that got pulled out of a number machine,” he said.

Mackey is now back up and back home in North Carolina, and he’s gotten a call from his local VA saying they want to come up with a plan for making the system better.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.