HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – It has been a long frustrating battle for Dale Dart and his family. The government agreed to retrofit his home to accommodate Dale’s wheelchair, then after a contractor was hired to build the room addition, officials decided they needed two contractors to get the job done.
As Dale Dart wheeled his way through his new wheelchair accessible room addition–provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs–the disabled veteran of the Iraq and Gulf Wars can finally say goodbye to his chair lift, and the isolation of living in the basement of his parents’ home.
“I have room and I can actually talk to people because down there I was quiet and kept to myself–I was a hermit–but I’m not anymore.”
But it took more than two years for the first floor addition to be completed, ending a bureaucratic nightmare, because the government required two contractors for the home renovation: one to build the outside shell, the other to do all the interior work, such as the plumbing, the wiring, the walls and floors.
Marge Dart, Dale’s mother, said now that the work is done, she can get some sleep at night, without worrying about her son’s safety.
“It was hard, hard on all of us, but it was worth it. It is something that needed to be done, and it is finished now.”
Dale and his family turned to Call 4 Action, and it took an intervention from Senator Charles Schumer–cranking up the heat on the VA to finally get the project finished.
Schumer said he is pleased Dale is finally in his new addition, but Veterans Affairs still has work to do.
“We don’t want this to happen to future veterans like Dale and the Dart family. So we are pushing the VA to change its process so, one stop shopping: you don’t need different contractors to approve different parts, each one going one after the other, which makes it take forever.”
Now the Darts are hopeful their battle might make it easier for other veterans, so they don’t have to take on a government bureaucracy that is supposed to help them.
The long ordeal took a toll on Marge Dart’s health, “It was just to get the government to realize that these guys need help, and they can’t do it on their own. They need help.”
New York’s senior U.S. senator said the VA is developing new guidelines for these kinds of construction projects. While the intent of the contracting regulation was to encourage minority, female, or veteran participation in a VA contract, the Dart’s project might not have been an appropriate application.