by Ginger Allen | CBS 11
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In vivid detail, 95-year-old North Texan Ed Malouf describes what happened more than seven decades ago.
“The Germans knocked out our kitchen. We didn’t get hot meals for 19 days,” he said.
At the time, Malouf was only 19 years old.
He spent 130 days fighting in the snow in the Hurtgen Forest in what is often called one of the “longest and bloodiest campaigns” of World War II.
At on time, eleven enemy soldiers surrendered to him.
“They weren’t any further than you are to me. I could see them,” he says to the I-Team as our crew stands about 15 feet away from him.
He made four-point-six cents an hour.
“It amounts to less than a nickel an hour to be on the front lines exposed every day.”
And yet, today, Malouf considers himself one of the lucky ones.
“Everyone on my squad was shot.”
After WWII, he came home and earned a degree from Southern Methodist University, but he later returned to the Korean War as a special agent for the Air Force.
Malouf would eventually become the focus of many news articles.
His service is documented in several books. He received awards and honors including the prestigious Purple Heart after being injured in a fox hole by shrapnel.
However, in 1953, the retired Army and Air Force veteran put the two branches of military service and two wars behind him, began raising nine children, and never looked back, until now.
THE NEW BATTLE 75-YEARS LATER
“So he didn’t apply for benefits until we said, ’Hey Dad, you deserve this,’ “ says Pete Malouf.
Pete Malouf is his son, one of the nine attorneys in the Malouf family who’ve spent the last 19 months trying to get Ed Malouf the financial benefits awarded to all veterans who serve, go to war and get an honorable discharge.
“I just feel sorry for the veterans who don’t have the resources dad has in his children and just would never be able to do what we’re doing,“ says Pete Malouf.
The Maloufs sent the I-Team a timeline documenting their efforts for more than a year-and-a-half.
It shows how they’ve been passed from one person to another at Veterans Affairs’ offices. ‘
They filled out one form after another upon instruction from the VA and they’ve been sent to numerous appointments nearly impossible for their 95-year-old father particularly during a pandemic.
This is a part of the story they family comprehends!
They tell the I-Team they understand why the pandemic made this process longer; however, even a congressman and colonel who stepped in to help say Covid-19 was no excuse for this long.
BRINGING IN BACKUP
“We were happy to jump into this, because, unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation,” says Texas Congressman Collin Allred.
U.S. Rep. Allred emphatically says this is not the first time he’s been down this road. “No, it’s not.”
Allred says he welcomes calls from veterans anytime, because the benefits process is confusing and frustrating, particularly for those who served in earlier wars.
When asked if the country needs to fix this problem, Allred says, “We do! We do!”
He tells CBS 11 he is now working on legislation that will cut through the red tape and speed it up.
“We’re learning all the time of errors and problems. I think it’s now on us to reach out these veterans. These are not gifts. They’re benefits that they’ve earned in service of our nation,” says Allred.
The c\Congressman is not alone.
INSIDER SAYS “INEXCUSABLE”
“I would say, ‘Hey, you know, I need to put a rush on this one,” says retired army Colonel Douglas Nash.
Colonel Nash says if he had been in charge of these benefits, they would have already happened.
Nash served in the army for 32 years.
He’s now an author who has researched and written about Malouf’s service.
“For Malouf’s (process) to take this long is inexcusable,” says Nash.
Nash tells the I-Team he understands the VA’s backlog and the pandemic’s impact, but he says, “It’s taken a lot of people to fight this battle for him after he fought hard for it. It shouldn’t be this hard.”
Back at Malouf’s Dallas home, he spends just about everyday inside his home office. Much of his time is spent researching and documenting his experience 75 years ago.
ARE YOU A VETERAN SEEKING BENEFITS?
If you know a veteran applying for financial benefits, education or medical treatment, Colonel Nash gives this advice:
-Don’t wait until the last minute.
-Have all your records together.
-File your records including your discharge certificate and any awards at your local courthouse.
-And, solicit help.
Malouf’s family says the “team effort” finally helped him get about 60% of what he is entitled.
A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs tells the I-team it is still working with the Maloufs to help get the remaining benefits; however, the family says the VA recently canceled another very important appointment that was the last piece of the puzzle.
VETERANS AFFAIRS STATEMENT TO I-TEAM
Veterans Affairs sent CBS 11 the following statement answering questions about Malouf’s situation and the process impacting all veterans:
Mr. Malouf received a rating decision on January 4, 2021, which granted 50 percent service-connection for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with an effective date of April 3, 2020. Four additional issues were deferred, including: bilateral hearing loss, residuals due to frost bite, residual injury to left leg, and residual injury to right leg. Mr. Malouf completed an audiology exam January 29, 2021; however, the results of that exam have not yet been released to VA. The remaining issues are pending exams, which have been delayed due to the pandemic as well as Mr. Malouf’s health and inability to attend certain in-person exams. Efforts are underway to complete the remaining exams virtually, if possible. Also, VA has requested additional Service Treatment Records for Mr. Malouf, however, there have been delays with retrieving those records due to the pandemic, as well as records possibly lost in the St. Louis fire of 1973.
Mr. Malouf received a retroactive payment of $7,159.05 on January 7, 2021. VA also sent an additional payment of $905.04 on February 1, 2021. VA continues to remain in contact with Mr. Malouf and his daughter, with last contact on February 9, 2021, and will continue to address their concerns and questions moving forward.
According to the congressman and colonel, cases often taken longer than they should, and the process needs to be expedited.
The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the supply of critical evidence necessary to render decisions on Veterans’ disability claims, to include examinations and Federal records. VA continues to work closely with the medical examination contractors to schedule examinations in a timely and safe manner under these extremely unusual conditions, and we continue to work closely with the National Archives and Records Administration on solutions to expedite requests for federal records required to process claims for benefits.