Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Ray Mackey is walking again. “First time in probably over a year I was able to stand for any given amount of time,” Mackey said. It’s exactly what he was doing the first time CBS News met him seven years ago. He was learning to walk after losing both legs to a land mine in Afghanistan. CBS News correspondent David Martin reported “then as now, (Mackey) was being fitted for prosthetics at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.”
The sockets that fit his legs to the prostheses are what sent Mackey back to Walter Reed after the VA in Fayetteville kept him waiting. Martin said if that wait is too long, his body changes and the sockets no longer fit.
Mackey said he received six or seven sockets that did not fit because of the delays. Up & Coming Weekly was unable to reach Mackey. “It is unacceptable that he felt he had to go outside VA to get the services he needed,” said Fayetteville VA spokesman Jeffery Melvin. “We can and will do better.”
Confined to a wheelchair, Mackey said at Walter Reed he got new sockets in less than a week. “This is probably the most work I’ve done on my legs in a while,” Mackey said during physical therapy. He has gained a lot of weight and his hips have lost their flexibility. Walking will always be hard for him.
But “It was the inability of the VA to keep him in properly fitting prosthetics that was keeping a good man down,” Martin reported. “I am just another number that got pulled out of a number machine,” Mackey said. He’s now back home in North Carolina. He recently got a call from the local VA saying they want to come up with a plan for making the system better and meeting his needs.
Fayetteville VA Medical Center Director Elizabeth Goolsby was out of town when Up & Coming Weekly asked for a response to Mackey’s complaints.
VA spokesman Melvin was apologetic. “We regret that Sgt. Maj. Mackey felt he had to go to Walter Reed to get the services he needed. Our Chief of Prosthetics reached out to him, apologized and asked him to return to Fayetteville VA and let us serve him again, and this time we vow to get it right.” Melvin continued.
“Several factors contributed to Sgt. Maj. Mackey’s previous difficulty getting his prostheses properly fitted. Because of a staff vacancy, we could not fit him in house when he first began seeing us, so we referred him to a private vendor. We have the staff to fit him here now. However, this does not absolve us of our responsibility for not knowing he was experiencing difficulty.”