'You will be forgotten if you don't advocate for yourself': Army vet denied surgery
EUGENE, Ore. (KVAL) - After 9 years of suffering, Army veteran Brandon Donovan says he feels forgotten by the VA.
"I look like skin and bones, I feel like skin and bones," he said. "I see it every day and it chips away at the mental armor."
That's why Brandon posted pictures of himself to Facebook.
You can count the bones of his rib cage.
His face is gaunt.
He doesn't look like the man who deployed to Iraq in 2009.
"I have no energy," Brandon said. "I'm in pain all the time."
The diagnosis: Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome, or MALS.
Because of that pain, Brandon said he can hardly eat
And after almost a decade of tests, he said he sought outside care from Dr. Richard Hsu, a vascular surgeon in Connecticut who suggested one more test.
"I went to the VA with that and said, 'Hey, let's do this,'" he said.
After doing the tests, Dr. Hsu said he could fix Brandon's pain.
And surgeons at a top hospital in Portland also sent a letter suggesting Brandon get the surgery under Dr. Hsu's care.
They submitted the referral, but the surgery was denied - twice - by the Veterans Administration.
"Like someone that is not a doctor confirms and denies those things," Brandon said.
In the first denial, the VA cited that they have their own vascular surgeons.
And when those surgeons suggested Dr. Hsu take over, the second denial said there is no evidence-based information - and that they did not have a billing code.
"I felt hopeless," Brandon said, "and it was kind of just like, 'Alright, I have no clue what to do.'"
Brandon provided us with his detailed medical logs released from the VA. They document every phone call and checkup he has had since 2013.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has made an official inquiry into Brandon's case.
When we asked where they were with it, we were given this response: "Our office is continuing to work with him and the VA to get him the care he needs."
We also reached out to the VA for comment. We did not get a response.
Now Brandon and his family are holding fundraisers and trying to pay for the surgery on their own.
"They try their hardest to get you the care, but they but they don't follow through with it," he said, "and you will be forgotten if you don't advocate for yourself."