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Injured Marine veteran gets help from congressmen

First Bob Filner, then Scott Peters

Katherine Ragazzino (in tank top); Gloria Allred (left)
Katherine Ragazzino (in tank top); Gloria Allred (left)

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Katherine Ragazzino's injuries in Iraq threw her into a nightmarish journey of denied benefits, homelessness and having to beg for help — including the now notorious visit with former mayor Bob Filner.

But in the past month, she found the help she needed in the offices of congressman Scott Peters. "We saw her on TV with Gloria Allred and we said, we know how to do this. We've had great success getting people the disability rating corrected for other veterans," said Peters’s chief of staff, Mary Ann Pintar.

According to Pintar, Peters has two staff members — USMC veteran and Wounded Warrior Tim Caudill and U.S. Navy vet Sarah March — fighting for vets full time.

Katherine Ragazzino, 37, was an active duty Marine for 12 years, deployed in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A Humvee crash in 2007 left her with spine and nerve injuries, a traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder —injuries that affected her memory and her ability to react to situations. That was particularly harmful when it came to dealing with the Veterans Administration, where paperwork is layered on earlier paperwork and an error early on can tilt the whole stack.

"She was misclassified by the first disability rater and the files got very complicated," Pintar said.

Ragazzino's struggles began in two areas: getting the medical help she needed and getting the financial help. The Veterans Administration would not declare her injuries bad enough to leave her unemployable, so she couldn't get financial help. And the treatment available to her was limited. Her memory problems and unwillingness to accept a diagnosis of PTSD compounded her challenges in dealing with the VA.

By December 2010, Ragazzino was living in her car in Liberty Station — without housing or financial assistance from the VA. She wasn't keeping appointments and she was losing hope. Then Michelle Tyler, a licensed vocational nurse and the wife of Ragazzino's former superior officer, heard about Ragazzino's plight and went to find her and bring her home.

Tyler set up a meeting with Bob Filner in 2011, when he was a congressman.

"The VA gave me my unemployability rating because of Filner," Ragazzino said, “and that meant I started to get financial support. Then we had to start getting the medical ratings reviewed."

By then, the VA couldn't find all her medical records, Ragazzino said. What they could find was based on errors in the original rating. So she and Tyler went back to Filner, now the mayor, for more help. Instead, the mayor allegedly pressured Tyler to date him.

"I was dying inside because I have to choose between taking care of myself and this creep," Ragazzino said. But within 24 hours of the press conference with Gloria Allred, Scott Peters’s office contacted her; within a week, the congressman's staff held a four-hour meeting with Ragazzino and the VA. At the end of it, Ragazzino's medical status was corrected and she is now getting the medical help she needs.

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Katherine Ragazzino (in tank top); Gloria Allred (left)
Katherine Ragazzino (in tank top); Gloria Allred (left)

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Katherine Ragazzino's injuries in Iraq threw her into a nightmarish journey of denied benefits, homelessness and having to beg for help — including the now notorious visit with former mayor Bob Filner.

But in the past month, she found the help she needed in the offices of congressman Scott Peters. "We saw her on TV with Gloria Allred and we said, we know how to do this. We've had great success getting people the disability rating corrected for other veterans," said Peters’s chief of staff, Mary Ann Pintar.

According to Pintar, Peters has two staff members — USMC veteran and Wounded Warrior Tim Caudill and U.S. Navy vet Sarah March — fighting for vets full time.

Katherine Ragazzino, 37, was an active duty Marine for 12 years, deployed in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A Humvee crash in 2007 left her with spine and nerve injuries, a traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder —injuries that affected her memory and her ability to react to situations. That was particularly harmful when it came to dealing with the Veterans Administration, where paperwork is layered on earlier paperwork and an error early on can tilt the whole stack.

"She was misclassified by the first disability rater and the files got very complicated," Pintar said.

Ragazzino's struggles began in two areas: getting the medical help she needed and getting the financial help. The Veterans Administration would not declare her injuries bad enough to leave her unemployable, so she couldn't get financial help. And the treatment available to her was limited. Her memory problems and unwillingness to accept a diagnosis of PTSD compounded her challenges in dealing with the VA.

By December 2010, Ragazzino was living in her car in Liberty Station — without housing or financial assistance from the VA. She wasn't keeping appointments and she was losing hope. Then Michelle Tyler, a licensed vocational nurse and the wife of Ragazzino's former superior officer, heard about Ragazzino's plight and went to find her and bring her home.

Tyler set up a meeting with Bob Filner in 2011, when he was a congressman.

"The VA gave me my unemployability rating because of Filner," Ragazzino said, “and that meant I started to get financial support. Then we had to start getting the medical ratings reviewed."

By then, the VA couldn't find all her medical records, Ragazzino said. What they could find was based on errors in the original rating. So she and Tyler went back to Filner, now the mayor, for more help. Instead, the mayor allegedly pressured Tyler to date him.

"I was dying inside because I have to choose between taking care of myself and this creep," Ragazzino said. But within 24 hours of the press conference with Gloria Allred, Scott Peters’s office contacted her; within a week, the congressman's staff held a four-hour meeting with Ragazzino and the VA. At the end of it, Ragazzino's medical status was corrected and she is now getting the medical help she needs.

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Comments
8

Glad she's getting the help she needs.

Sept. 14, 2013

Bravo! What good news.

Sept. 14, 2013

Congressman Filner helped the Veteran women and her nurse get financial support for disability claims in 2011.

In 2013 Mayor Filner had a meeting with both and agreed to help through phone calls and/or letters to the local Veterans Administration. After already agreeing to help both women, Mayor Filner asked the nurse on a date. She said no. Filner still followed through and advocated for her medical rating changes. No Pressure.

Sept. 14, 2013

Thank you, laplaya, for keeping the record straight by hewing to the plain facts. It is tiresome to see how the received wisdom gets inserted unthinkingly into stories as automatic filler.

Sept. 14, 2013

come on, you can look at me but dont touch me. Its a tough decision to really decide things that way, but we take care of our business

Sept. 14, 2013

Lucy D. Barker is such a fine writer but who is she really? I looked for her on Facebook and it seems she doesn't exist. My friend at the Imperial Beach Nature Center that was interviewed by "her" for a story "she" wrote claims he only talked to a man. If "Lucy" is trans-gender, then congrats to the Reader for using her excellent stories.

None

Sept. 15, 2013

Why shoot the messenger? The message was - still is - this is a ferocious attack on a Democratic Mayor who dared to disagree with the Republican power players and they called Allred to get a frenzy going over women's issues. The women they found have mental problems (more than just my opinion) so it worked because they could easily be persuaded to whine and moan (especially if Gloria said there might be $ - but in reality it will be Gloria's $) We get a convention center we don't want or need. A remodel of the stadium isn't good and shiny enough for a Superbowl (who gives a ____?) They want to use tax $ to squish everything into downtown, already oversquished and more hotels... Where are the inexpensive activities for the families with kids that live here? Why not keep an actual park or two and not fill it all with corporate buildings that make a few people/families richer? It won't stop until the Ants rise up, there's more of us than there are of them! Our neighborhoods are important to us. Make up your mind. What do you want? Who will help us and how do we get her/him elected in this short time? Game on.

Sept. 15, 2013

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