Medical needs ignored, vet says


POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Hawaii Army National Guard Iraq war veteran who injured his back in Texas last year while preparing for a deployment to Kuwait says military officials have ignored his medical problems and have made him a target of a formal investigation.

Sgt. Kaipo Giltner, assigned to the 29th Brigade Combat Team's 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment, said he was injured Sept. 2 when the Humvee he was riding in hit a bump while on a training exercise at Fort Hood. He said he was carrying 60 pounds of gear at the time.

Giltner, who served with the 100th Battalion during the 29th Brigade's deployment to Iraq in 2004, said that after a brief medical examination last year, he was sent home and released from active duty. From November until May, when he was finally seen by Department of Veterans Affairs doctors, Giltner, a 1999 Kaiser High School graduate, was unable to work and received no medical treatment, he said.

A VA evaluation found that he needs surgery and will be out for at least a year, unable to work while he recovers.

Until he finally took his complaint to Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, state adjutant general, and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie two months ago, Giltner said no one at National Guard headquarters was willing to help him. Giltner's visit to Lee prompted a “;line of duty”; investigation into the September 2008 incident. He was told by Abercrombie's office that the congressman could not act until the investigation is complete.

Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman, acknowledged that a “;line of duty”; investigation is “;still ongoing”; by 29th Brigade officials in Kuwait.

Anthony said he can't talk about individual cases.

Generally speaking, Anthony said any request to put a soldier on active duty can only be forwarded to the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon after the investigation is complete.

Giltner, 28, said he was told by Col. Arthur Logan, Hawaii Army National Guard chief of staff, that the investigation could be done by the end of this week.

Giltner said he reported for sick call on Sept. 3, 2008—the day after the accident—and was treated at a Fort Hood medical facility. A month later, he was diagnosed with a disc problem, found “;nondeployable”; by Army doctors and sent home.

“;I thought they would take care of me when I got home,”; Giltner added. “;But the opposite was true. They had no idea I was injured. They had no idea I was coming home. They said they couldn't help me because I didn't have the proper paperwork.

“;But no one told me what to do next.”;

His commanding officer was Capt. John Ishikawa.

Giltner believes he should not have been released from active duty until his back was treated last year.

“;I could barely do anything. Even driving a car was painful,”; he added.

“;I was told the injury was from my previous deployment and not a new injury, but that didn't stop them from calling me up again.”;

Giltner's wife, Shirley, was eight months pregnant when he was injured and had to take maternity leave from her job as an inspector with the Transportation Security Administration.

“;There was no income coming into the household,”; Shirley Giltner said in a three-page letter to Abercrombie. “;For months, he tried to do everything he could think of by making phone calls to the only one that could have helped him through the Army but was turned away, and was going on his own time to the VA trying to get some kind of help. ... “;

Giltner and his wife said they believe that the Hawaii Army National Guard should reactivate him so he can get proper medical treatment for his back—as he was injured while on active duty—and that he should remain on active duty until he recuperates.

Giltner said although he is still employed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a food inspector, he has not been paid because there has been no work for him. He finally found a part-time job in May checking identification cards at Fort Shafter's front gate. Giltner is still a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, which he joined shortly after graduating from high school.