In 2007, Sgt. John Peck was serving in Al Anbar province, Iraq. After a daylong search for Taliban, it was time for his patrol to go back to base. Sgt. Peck was manning the machine gun for the lead vehicle. As it rounded a corner the vehicle was hit by a pressure initiated IED. Sgt. Peck suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and long-term memory loss. Despite his injuries, Sgt. Peck begged doctors to allow him to return to combat. His wish was granted, and that’s when his luck ran out.
On May 24, 2010, Sgt. Peck was serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED. The force of the blast sheared off both of his legs, part of his right arm, and damaged his left arm.
Complications caused by the flesh eating fungus, Aspergillosis, forced doctors to have to amputate part of his left arm leaving. Sgt. Peck was now a quadruple amputee.
As noted on his website, his recovery was brutal.
Through the blast and twenty-seven different surgeries, John received forty-one pints of blood, thirty-five units of plasma and five units of platelets, and at one point bled out completely. He was medically sedated from late May to early August, during which he endured daily surgeries to clean out debris and dead flesh and to fight the infection that was slowly spreading through his body. At one point his family received the heartbreaking news that John was living minute to minute and the doctors, sadly, suggested they say their last goodbyes. During his surgeries, he flat lined three times and was pronounced dead once.
Fast-forward to present day. Sgt. Peck must use a specially adapted wheelchair to get around. Several weeks ago, a motor on the wheelchair blew out. He sent it to the VA to have it fixed. When he got his wheelchair back, he “thought it was fixed but it felt very rough and bumpy.” He took his wheelchair home, and then felt “something knocking underneath.” Sgt. Peck then called Keith Borders, his VA case manager. He asked if he could have his wheelchair fixed by a local company. His case manager said he couldn’t do that until the VA approved it or else he wouldn’t be reimbursed. He didn’t hear back from the VA.
That night, Sgt. Peck was putting his prosthetic arm away in his closet like he does every night. He started backing his wheelchair out of the closet when he realized he had no traction. He thought maybe a dog toy had gotten stuck under the wheel, but when he looked down, the left wheel was halfway off the chair. He was stuck.
John was nowhere near his cell phone, or his house phone, so he had no way to call for help. He slowly maneuvered to get off the wheelchair, and onto the floor, taking care not to injure himself. As he was getting off the wheelchair, the left wheel came off the chair completely. Peck crawled 10 feet on the floor to his bed, and got his cell phone. He called his mom and his friend to help him. John then saw what was wrong. Someone at the VA had forgot to put on the main washer and nut that holds the wheel to the chair.
John called his case manager again, letting him know what had happened. Peck states his case manager “was nonchalant about it and had no urgency whatsoever.” Sgt. Peck again told him he wanted to have his chair fixed by a local company. His case manager told him that if he did, he probably wouldn’t be reimbursed.
Regarding the incident, Sgt. Peck wrote on his Facebook page:
I am writing this hopefully this shine some light on how the Veterans Administration treat people. Because it does not affect them they do not care they have job security so therefore they do not put in 100% effort. Their responses are basically coming out of a script, they say they sorry but there is no feeling attached to it. Why is it you go anywhere else and if you’re treated like shit you talk to a manager or supervisor that person is either fired or given unpaid leave but with the VA they can treat you like shit and nothing happens to them.
Truly disgusting how severely wounded veterans are treated by this government agency that is supposed to help them. If I were John’s case manager, I would’ve been making calls all the way up the chain to get approval for the repairs. If an amputee vet has something as important as his or her wheelchair break, they shouldn’t even need approval for repairs. Reimbursement should be automatic. It’s not like they haven’t given enough for their country.
Sgt. Peck gives motivational speeches around the country, and dreams of being a chef some day. He was recently approved for a double arm transplant. We wish him all the best, and hope the VA gets its act together when dealing with severely wounded vets.