Homeless Veteran Faces VA Delays

By: Carly Hildyar Email
By: Carly Hildyar Email

Panama City One random act of kindness has brought two strangers together.

Veteran David Smith was homeless and without healthcare when he caught the attention of a special friend.

Now, they won't stop fighting until he receives proper care.

In February, David Smith was dying.

He was in a wheelchair and suffering from prostate cancer when he approached Heather Birch.

"As I talked to him, I could just see his heart," Birch said. "You know, he has a big, wonderful heart. The guy's gone through a lot, and he just needed help."

Since then Birch has dedicated her time to helping him find shelter at the Panama City Rescue Mission and establishing his veterans rights.

"I've come a long way since I've been here," Smith said. "There's lots of doors that have opened, but the right one hasn't opened yet. And I'm going to work on that until we get it open."

On March 21, Smith received a letter from the Veterans Affairs Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System.

It says the office would call him within two weeks to schedule an appointment. But the call never came.

"I was kicked to the curb, I would say," Smith said. "A lot of people are kicked to the curb. They don't care."

They've called several veteran resources trying to figure out why but still don't have an answer.

"I want to do more than what I'm doing right now," Smith said. "But mostly what I want to do is open more doors for our veterans. Not just for me. There's younger ones out there than I am, and they need help, lots of help. And I'm ready to help them."

Smith now has a preliminary appointment with the VA in late July, but he and Birch say it might be several months before Smith can see a specialist.

NewsChannel 7 called the VA about why Smith was never contacted, but the Public Affairs Office said it could not comment at this time.

NewsChannel 7 will continue to follow up with Smith and his story as it progresses.


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