Joseph Harrison served in the Marines in the late seventies. He was gassed in Turkey, then involved in a serious car crash on base. Forty year's later, those incidents have taken a toll on his health and he can no longer work.
But Harrison was told he can't get disability benefits because the government lost all of his medical records from his time in service.
"I have two grandchildren," said Harrison. "My file is way thicker than this."
For years he's fought to get his service records. But when they arrived, the most crucial part was missing.
"My military medical records" said Harrison.
Harrison joined the Marines right out of high-school in hopes of a better life.
"Growing up in the projects in New Jersey I just wanted to get away from everything and I knew the military would give me that foundation," said Harrison.
His five years of service didn't come without sacrifice or injury. In 1981, he was gassed on an American base in Turkey.
"I'm fighting to get out of my sleeping bag and my gas mask is in my hooch couldn't get to that and I passed out," said Harrison.
Despite developing severe asthma, Harrison re-enlisted for administrative duty at Quantico. But while leaving base one day his car was slammed by a massive military truck.
"When my girlfriend saw the car she thought I was dead," said Harrison.
After that, despite trying, Harrison couldn't keep up with his everyday military duties. So he was discharged. For decades he lived civilian life productively working a good job and raising his family.
But then the physical effects of his service connected injuries took their toll.
"Spinal stinosis, arthritis, lumbard fracture, torn rotator cuff."
Harrison was approved for health benefits from the VA but not disability. That's because he was told his entire medical record from his military years was lost.
Attorney Drew Early isn't surprised. Early recommends Harrison fill out a form few vets know about. It's called a "Request for Reconstruction of Service Treatment" documents and is through the National Archives Center in St. Louis.
"They will go back to service treatment facilities and pull from their files the information they have for the veteran," said Early.
We helped Harrison with the form but Early estimates the process will take at least 6 months. As protocol, Harrison turned his medical records into the base hospital when he was discharged. But he never got a copy. Early now recommends all vets to get a copy of their records immediately after discharge.
The VA did help Harrison out of homelessness through it's HUD Vash program but he say's between rent, transportation cost and medical bills from private doctors he can barely afford to eat.
"I have to find food banks."
Harrison says he doesn't want a hand out, just what's entitled to him for his years of service.
"I'd like to go see my grand-kids, I'd like to bring them here but i can't afford it."
CBS46 reached out to the VA. They tell us Harrison's service treatment records aren't available and that the VA has made several attempts to locate them. The spokesperson went on the say they request information from Harrison that would help them locate the records and he didn't respond.
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