ENCINITAS — The family of a veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury earlier this month, which doctors believe is linked to his service in Iraq and Afghanistan, are imploring the Veterans Administration to pay for his long-term care.
Sean Reed, 35, who served in the U.S. Army for seven years, suffered a seizure on March 4 that caused him to fall down and hit his head. He was taken to Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego where he remains in critical but stable condition due to the seizure and the head blow.
Sean’s father, Phil Reed, said that Scripps doctors informed them that the VA was going to pay for his hospital stay, but would not pay for the long-term rehabilitation that doctors believe he will need in the days, months and years to come.
This, they said, is unacceptable.
“We are trying to advocate for Sean to get him the care that he needs,” Phil said. “We believe the VA should step up to the plate to help one of its own.”
Phil said that Sean, who attended Digueño Middle School and La Costa Canyon High School and was a competitive gymnast throughout his youth and collegiate years, was watching the news one night in 2004 and was touched by a story about the Iraqi war, and felt compelled to enlist.
“For Sean, it was almost a calling,” Phil said.
During his military service, Sean served two tours in Iraq and in Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, according to his family, insurgents attacked his Humvee with an improvised explosive device, killing several soldiers in his unit and cutting off his ear.
He was flown to Germany to have his ear reattached and then was transported to Alaska where he awaited to be discharged, but was convinced to reenlist for a second term after, according to the family, it was determined there was a need for him to return to Afghanistan.
He was discharged from the military in 2010. Phil said his son has struggled ever since with post traumatic stress disorder and other maladies, causing him to self medicate at times.
“He constantly struggled to transition back to civilian life,” Phil said. “He’s had trouble sleeping, and all of the symptoms of PTSD that are common among veterans. He was really unable to transition back to what you and I would consider a normal routine.”
Sean, Phil said, has been in and out of short-term rehabilitation facilities since his exit from the military, but his struggles persisted.
Meanwhile, the family has been hit with one tragedy after the next. Sean’s mother was diagnosed in 2014 with Stage 4 lung cancer and has been undergoing treatment ever since. In February, his grandmother and aunt also passed away, further straining the family.
This was the backdrop of the March 4 incident involving Sean, which occurred while he was shopping. He was taken to Scripps Mercy, where he has been relatively unresponsive, save for a moment a week ago when he opened his eyes for the first time.
Doctors, Phil said, said the seizure and subsequent brain injuries are likely linked to the brain injuries he suffered while serving in the military. With documentation from the VA that Sean is rated as 100 percent disabled, Phil said he thought there would be no trouble setting up his rehabilitative care.
Then, Phil said, he and the family received the biggest shock of all: his case manager at Scripps told the family that the VA only rated Sean as 70 percent disabled, meaning he wouldn’t qualify for the long-term care.
“This has been emotionally crippling to the family in terms of seeing this young man feel compelled to join to do his part, and for him to come home and have this kind of rejection,” said Jeanie Cash, Phil’s sister who approached The Coast News with the story. “It has been very traumatic for them, emotionally and physically.”
The Veterans Administration, prompted by questioning by The Coast News, is investigating Sean’s case. We will update readers of any developments.