The week after September 11, 2001, Thomas Hammons signed up to join the Army at 22 years old. He immediately stood out as an outstanding soldier. He was praised in every performance review from 2002 through 2004, earning multiple medals. He moved up in the ranks and became a Pathfinder—specialists who navigate through foreign terrain to establish safe landing zones for Army aircraft. He also served as an Airborne Ranger in the 75th Ranger Regiment, the Army’s premier direct-action raid force.
In 2003, he was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. During this service, he was exposed to fire, mortar rounds, and multiple IED blasts at close range – leading to several physical and mental injuries. Mr. Hammons recalls mortars exploding around them at night when the soldiers slept. Just prior to his second deployment, Mr. Hammons began to show the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which manifested in a dramatic change in his performance levels and minor misconduct. After more than 4 years of honorable service, Mr. Hammons did not receive treatment but he was discharged as Other than Honorable, which barred him from access to VA healthcare and GI benefits.
Life after the military has been difficult without the tools to address what he experienced during deployment. In 2018, he was diagnosed with service-connected PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Migraines. He needed treatment as well as the time and space to allow himself to focus on recovery and return to stability from the invisible wounds and physical injuries that interrupted daily life. Over a decade later, when Mr. Hammons first came to CVLC, he was dealing with several legal and health issues.
Working with Attorney Cindy Johnson, Mr. Hammons filed for a re-characterization of his discharge status to help him access VA Healthcare and treat his service-connected disabilities. Attorney Johnson’s petition was successful and the VA now recognizes Mr. Hammons’ service as honorable. He now has full access to healthcare and has been awarded disability benefits. Because so many veterans have been incorrectly turned away in the past, Attorney Cindy Johnson accompanied Mr. Hammons to the VA eligibility office to make sure the recent changes in his status was processed as quickly as possible. After that visit, he now has full access to VA healthcare. CVLC’s work is not done. Working with several different pro bono attorneys, we are turning attention to consumer and family legal issues to remove all legal barriers to a full recovery.
When Mr. Hammons joined the Army at 22 years old, after the wake of the 9/11 attacks, he was promised that his country would care for him after he served. Today, after suffering years without help, that promise is finally fulfilled and Mr. Hammons is on his way to a healthier and more stable life.