LINCOLNTON, NC (WBTV) - A Lincolnton veteran who is suffering a debilitating brain injury as a result of his Army service has been approved for VA disability benefits. The decision comes more than seven years after his initial request for benefits and just days after questions from WBTV.
Maurice Moore served in the Army in the 1970s. Most of his time in the military involved taking part in boxing matches on bases across the world as part of the Army's morale and PR efforts.
"That was my job," Moore said in an interview with WBTV. "(To) take blows to the head and make our unit look good and make the American look good."
Moore's boxing career in the Army included fights against big names like Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Spinks. Moore was, himself, an alternate on the 1976 US Olympic team.
"Not bragging, but in Europe, I was the most famous American there," Moore said as he looked through old pictures and documents.
It's easy to Moore to recall the memories from decades ago. It's his short-term memory that has faded.
Moore suffers from a brain injury associated with repeated head trauma – the same disease that's recently been highlighted in football players.
"I forget my son's name, I do!" he said. "That's when it started getting really bad, when I talked to my son and I called him something else."
Because the brain injury can be traced to his time boxing in the Army, Moore filed a claim for VA disability benefits in 2009.
His claim would through round after round of review, denial and appeal. Before he called WBTV, the last action in his years-long fight came when his case was reviewed by the Board of Veterans Appeals and sent back to a local board for further review. That was more than a year ago.
In the years Moore has waited for the benefits he earned through his military service, his condition has gotten increasingly worse. He relies on a trough of pills to keep him going each day. He cannot work and has no other source of income.
"They're not helping me, period," Moore said. "I worked my butt off for the military doing all this stuff and now I figure well, you know, they're going to help me. But they've given me nothing but grief."
But Moore got welcomed news from the VA days after WBTV called to ask why it had taken nearly a decade to review and approve his benefits.
In a statement to WBTV, a spokeswoman for the VA Benefits Administration's Winston-Salem Regional Office said Moore's claim for benefits had been granted.
"VA thanks Maurice Moore for his unique service to our country. VA is committed to its mission of providing veterans with timely access to the benefits they've earned through their service and recently announced the development of an aggressive reform plan for the current appeals system and is working to make as many changes to the system allowed by current law," the VA spokeswoman said in a statement.
"VA employees are dedicated to getting veterans the benefits they have earned and deserve as quickly and accurately as possible. VA's duty to assist is rooted in the pro-veteran system designed to ensure that each individual veteran's case is developed to its maximum extent," the statement continued.
The VA spokeswoman claimed Moore's benefits were approved on March 21, 2017—the day before WBTV interviewed Moore for this story. But records provided my Moore show nothing was communicated from the VA until after they were reached for this story.
Moore's disability benefits will be backdated to 2009.
The benefits will help Moore lead a normal life to the extent he can. Meanwhile, the old boxer says he plans to keep fighting.
"My kid, I want to be able to see him graduate from school. I want to see him with grandchildren," Moore said. "And I want to make sure that I can remember all that stuff, you know?"