Area family pushes for change in VA organ surgery process

(Courtesy: Kimberly Fain)
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LEANDER, Texas (KWTX) A Leander family's fight to get their loved one life-saving care could help other veterans caught up in red tape.

Charles Nelson's family is on a mission to change the VA's organ surgery process.

The veteran needed a kidney but because his donor didn't also serve, the family paid a steep price.

A year and a half after life-saving kidney surgery Army veteran Charles Nelson is recovered, but he says the Veterans Affairs system needs healing.

Nelson said, "when I tell someone the reason that I wasn't approved, they're dumbfounded."

Nelson's son Coty volunteered his kidney for the transplant.

The family expected the VA to cover the procedure and do it locally, but that didn't happen.

Nelson's wife Tamara says the VA told them it couldn't cover the procedure because Charles' son isn't a fellow veteran.

That left the Nelsons raising cash on their own at their church and through a San Antonio hospital.

Rep. John Carter, (R) Texas, said, "everybody agreed that was the dumbest policy they ever heard of."

Congressman Carter represents the 31st District, which includes Leander.

His proposal to rewrite VA policy recently passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate.

Rep. Carter said, "this is a life-saving bill.”

The measure would scrap the need for an organ donor to be a veteran too, in order for the VA to cover surgery costs in every instance.

The bill allow aims to allow procedures to be done closer to home.

"Many people have to go all the way to the West Coast or all the way to the East Coast to have a transplant," Carter said.

This bill saw strong bipartisan support in the House and passed there last month.

It's now on track to be taken up by the Senate Veterans Affairs committee.