Wife of former Marine Patrol Officer testified in favor of a fix authored by Rep. Seth Berry
A Brunswick woman wants to make sure that what happened to her husband and family never happens to anyone else.
In a public hearing before the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee this week, Darcie Couture urged passage of a measure that would make sure disabled veterans who are part of the Public Employee Retirement System qualify for disability benefits if they become unable to work.
Couture’s husband, Scott, served in the Marine Patrol for over 15 years and, during that time, experienced increasingly serious post-traumatic stress stemming from his service in Iraq. After a while he became unable to work but was denied disability retirement benefits after a particularly unpleasant hearing process even though the VA had determined that he had a service-connected disability.
“My concern is that if we do not address this system and change it, it will not be long before we see the death of a veteran, who is so despondent after being grilled in a room about all of his PTSD triggers that he chooses to end the struggle once and for all,” said Couture.
After Scott lost his final appeal, Couture eventually connected with Rep. Seth Berry, who submitted LD 521. The measure would change the law so that, in future cases, a VA determination of a service-connected disability would automatically qualify a public employee for benefits.
Rep. Seth Berry at home in Bowdoinham, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx
“No family should have to go through this,” said Berry, D-Bowdoinham. “PTSD is a major issue that affects many Maine veterans. We need to come together and close this gap before anyone else falls through it.”
The committee will schedule a work session on Berry’s bill in the coming days.
Berry represents House District 55: Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Swan Island, and most of Richmond. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House Majority Leader.