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Thursday, November 27, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 6/28/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Portman moved by veteran’s plight

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Steven Tandler, Jr., 39, a Navy veteran who served during Desert Storm, rolled up his sleeves and pants legs to show his horrendously scarred skin. He pulled out his ill-fitting dentures and talked about how badly they hurt when he uses them. His body jerks and shakes uncontrollably at all times.

“I can’t stand to look at myself; I can’t stand myself,” Mr. Tandler, a former Toledoan said Friday during a town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman at American Legion Post 468 in Sylvania.

Mr. Portman, who was standing beside Mr. Tandler as he spoke, was visibly shaken. The senator stood silently for several moments before he appeared to regain his composure and asked an aide to obtain more information from Mr. Tandler so he could pursue his case.

Mr. Tandler, who has lived in Missouri for several years, told Mr. Portman he has to return to Toledo every six weeks because he is required to go to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System for chemotherapy. V.A. rules don’t allow him to be treated at a facility closer to his new home.

Mr. Portman told the group he has introduced a bill that would allow veterans like Mr. Tandler to receive a voucher to receive care from a private physician instead of a V.A. doctor if the veteran resides more than 40 miles from a V.A. facility.

Mr. Portman said he has received mixed responses from veterans across Ohio during town hall sessions. Some veterans claim they are getting great service, while others claim they are receiving horrible treatment.

Senator Portman said he is concerned about veterans returning from Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress and other mental illnesses.

He said recruits should be subject to a psychological evaluation before they are allowed to enlist, and another evaluation when they are discharged.

Toledo police Chief William Moton, a Vietnam War veteran, agreed with the senator. Chief Moton, who was awarded a Purple Heart, was a sergeant in the Marine Corps.

“I think it’s harder back here than it was in the war,” said Chief Moton, whose voice grew more emotional the longer he spoke. “I see young men walking around here in worse shape, and they don’t deserve this.

“We welcome them back, but then we don’t help them readjust,” the chief said.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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