BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — James Pettigrew said he doesn’t remember much from the night of May 13, 2016. Police found him in the middle of the street early that morning while it was still dark outside.
“The last thing I remember is bright lights in front of me,” said Pettigrew. “I went to sleep and I woke up August 27.”
Pettigrew was in a coma for months after the hit-and-run, he said. The scooter he was riding on that night was demolished. But it was one of the first things the Vietnam veteran thought about when he regained consciousness. So he asked the VA for a new one and was denied. He asked again a few weeks later in September was told he needed to prove it.
“The bureaucracy of it, it’s just crazy,” said Pettigrew during an interview near his home. “You gotta prove this to prove that to prove this to prove that. And I had the scooter before I had the accident. The thing was, I was approved for it then. I was approved for it afterwards. Why is it I can’t get one.”
Pettigrew said he’s asked them time and time again. His own nurses and physicians at the VA have said he’s needed one. He’s even brought them a note from his doctor at Bronson Kalamazoo stating that he needs one for various health concerns.
“He said your arm, your shoulder is messed up,” said Pettigrew about his meeting with a doctor in January. “It’s hard for you to get around. I prefer you get it back, the scooter ‘cause you could get around at least.”
He presented the note to the VA and was still denied, saying that he needed to go through physical therapy tests in order to get one. So he did. But all they gave him was a wheelchair which, he said, doesn’t alleviate the pain in his lower body.
“I done had multiple surgeries on my lower extremities and my legs,” said Pettigrew. “I got steel in my right thigh, steel in my ankles, steel in my toes. So all this comes apart when the temperature changes and the weather changes.”
So he’s continuing to reach out to the VA for help in getting a scooter, he said. Then he was recently told that in order to get one a special committee has to approve it.
"I exactly don’t know who’s doing what or why they’re doing it," said Pettigrew. "If doctors and the health facility say I need a vehicle or a scooter and the nurses are telling me I need a scooter, and I qualify for a scooter, why is it that I can’t get one?"
The VA said they are taking his request seriously. In an email they stated: "When reviewing the issuing of equipment like this, safety of the Veterans is our paramount concern. Safety is the top priority in doing a review to see if an item or treatment is clinically appropriate."
Pettigrew said he understands there's a process but wants to know how long it lasts. When his scooter was stolen in 2009, he received a new one in 35 days.
“The thing was they can respond when they want to respond,” said Pettigrew. “I understand that. But to keep me suffering like this doesn’t make no sense at all.”