Jerrod Hays, a severely wounded Iraq War veteran who lives in Wellington, got some welcome news Monday.
The 44-year-old, who lost nearly half his face in a roadside bomb attack in 2007, said he just learned from a Veterans Administration official late Monday afternoon that he has been approved for a 100 percent disability that will significantly raise his income -- at a time when he and his family are facing losing their home to foreclosure. What's not yet clear is whether the disability income will be enough and be in time to stop the foreclosure.
The disability-payment approval came Sunday and was mailed Monday morning, Hays said. He expects to get his first disability check within about a month. He said the disability pay, combined with his military retirement pay, will get his income back to about where it was before he retired at the rank of sergeant first class in August after serving 26 years in the Kansas National Guard. In his civilian life, he had worked for a foundry, but he and his wife say his injuries have left him unable to work.
A regional VA official said Monday night that he couldn't comment about Hays' disability situation.
On Saturday, The Eagle published a story on Kansas.com about how Hays and his family could be losing their dream home to foreclosure and that for him the prospect is "worse than getting blown up."
In February 2007, Hays suffered extensive injuries to his face, mouth, arms and hands in a roadside bombing attack that killed his fellow staff sergeant, David Berry of Wichita. Hays underwent more than 45 surgeries and spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
After the article was published, The Eagle received about a dozen e-mails and nearly as many phone calls from readers offering moral support to Hays and wanting to help with the family's financial troubles.
As of late Monday afternoon, apparently no fund had been set up to help the family, although some of the supporters offered to do so.
In one of the e-mails, Bob Fitzthum, a disabled Vietnam veteran and member of VFW Post 112 in Wichita, wrote: "I find it deplorable that a Veteran who has served, fought and been wounded while serving his country can be subjected to his situation. Yes, he said it was part their fault for the situation they are in, but it's still unacceptable." Fitzthum said he "thinks this problem should be rectified, NOW. ... Please let me know if there is anything that we can possibly do for him."
In the article, Hays said he and his wife take most of the blame for their mortgage and financial problems. He said they paid a Florida company to help them refinance but that the company took advantage of them. The mortgage lender, meanwhile, began foreclosure proceedings.
Nancy Hays said the lender has been good to deal with and that she is working to fix their mortgage "mess." Still, they say, they could lose their home any time. The Eagle on Monday was not able to get information from the lender.
Told of the supportive e-mails and phone calls on Monday, Nancy Hays said, "It's awesome that there are people out there like that." She said the couple told their story not to get help but "so other vets would know it happens. They are not out there by themselves."
According to some reports, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are the fastest-growing group of homeless in the nation.
When an Eagle reporter read Jerrod Hays some of the supportive comments, he said, "Oh, my gosh. I don't know how to put it in words.
"Does an old soldier good to hear something like that. I thank them so very much."