WALSENBURG, Colo. — A military spouse mourning the unexpected death of her husband reached out to News5 after months of frustration trying to acquire her husband’s medical records from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Tara Burke tells News5 she needed those medical records from the VA in order to collect on life insurance benefits to help pay mounting bills and to sustain her family in the wake of her husband’s death, but says for 7 months her follow-up emails and calls were being ignored.
”It’s obviously an emotional subject and you want to move on and I can’t do that,” said Burke.
In Walsenburg, Burke is still dealing with the heartache of losing her husband.
”He succumbed to a staph infection that we’re not even sure how he caught it,” said Burke.
She says after getting that infection her husband Robert Burke passed away unexpectedly in September. His life was highlighted by decades of military service.
Burke had a long career serving active duty in the Air Force and Marine Corps. While serving in Iraq, he was in a plane crash which led to some of his injuries.
In order to collect on Robert’s life insurance policy, she says she needed medical records from the VA, but her requests were being ignored.
”I keep checking my email hoping I’ll have a response from the VA and the initial email I got from them where they acknowledge that they have these records requests I respond back asking for updates and it’s nothing,” said Burke.
Sharing her experiences with other military families on social media, she quickly learned she wasn’t alone in experiencing frustrations with the sluggish VA.
”It’s hard to see just because of all the things that he did and what other veterans do for the country and there’s a missing link somewhere that’s keeping people from being able to move forward,” said Burke.
She decided to contact News5 and was advised in addition to sharing her story, she needed to reach out to Colorado’s state and national lawmakers. It’s something she says Robert would have wanted too.
”I know he’d be proud of me taking these extra steps,” said Burke.
News of her struggle getting Robert’s medical records from the VA reached Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s office. Her staff took action helping Burke to finally secure those records.
”I’m honored that we were able to help Ms. Burke with this issue. It’s terrible she had to wait this long to get these benefits,” said Rep. Boebert. “A military spouse waiting 7 months from a simple records request is absolutely unacceptable.”
News5 asked Rep. Boebert about widespread complaints from military members and families waiting for the VA to take action on their issues and claims. She says helping military members and their families is something she is passionate about and anyone who is having problems navigating the VA or another federal system should reach out to her office.
”This is something we hear about all the time and there are many pieces of legislation that have been introduced and are still being worked on to improve the Veterans Administration, but it is very frustrating when even the call takers are saying we can’t do anything you have to call your representative, your member of Congress to solve this,” said Rep. Boebert.
As our nation’s lawmakers try to find solutions to the ongoing VA challenges facing our military members and their families, Burke says she learned some important lessons during this experience and wants to be part of the solution too.
”Know that there’s help out there, you just have to search for it, and now that I’m asking for help people are there,” said Burke. “Maybe there are family members like us out there who can get trained and help. I’m willing to help out how I can as well.”
In this process, News5 learned many of the offices of our state and national lawmakers have staff members dedicated to helping our military members and their families navigate issues with the VA so they want you to reach out.
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