INJURED SOLDIER NOW SAYS HE'S ENEMY OF THE STATE
Having served his country loyally and with dedication, former soldier Lance Corporal Gregory Sylvester has become despondent because he now feels as though he has become an “enemy of the State.”
On August 21, 2004 Sylvester reported for duty, as any ordinary work day, but never would he have thought for one second that that was the day his life would have turned around, not for the best but for the worst.
On that fateful day, Sylvester, who was an official driver for then Colonel, was at Camp Cumuto at about 6 am preparing a vehicle to go pick him up at his home in Chaguanas. As he lifted a bucket of water while washing the vehicle he felt a sharp pain in the back. He, however, completed the task and proceeded to go pick up his Colonel despite the constant pain.
Relating the story, Sylvester said that his Colonel noticed him grimacing in pain and asked him about it, “I told him what happened and on his instruction I went to the doctor there at Camp Cumuto where I got some Mortrin tablets. I took it and continued working until 8 pm that day.”
But when Sylvester reached home at that time in Barataria he realised that he was having difficulty in walking, “I spent about two hours to reach to the bedroom from the kitchen which is right there next to each other and by the time I got to the bed I realised that I could not even get into the bed, I had to throw myself down on it.”
The following morning Sylvester said he called the Camp and told them what happened and they sent the ambulance for him, however, the two soldiers could not lift him so they had to roll him onto an old mattress and lift that to get him into the ambulance. He was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital where he was treated and then transferred to the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Community Hospital where he underwent two spinal surgeries which left him totally disabled.
In 2008, Sylvester was informed that the arrangement was made to have him before the Medical Board but it never happened.
Since then he was placed on sick leave, receiving treatment from the SDA hospital.
However, while on sick leave, and without notification, Sylvester was taken “off-guard” when he realised he had stopped receiving his salary, which resulted in him losing his insurance coverage, “I almost lost my home as I had arrears in the mortgage payments.”
In 2012, by arrangement with National Security and the Health Ministry, Sylvester was placed before the medical board with a disablement assessment of 100 per cent. In 2011, he was assessed as 90 per cent disabled before the board.
However, two years have lapsed without any relief or information about his status with respect to his assessment and compensation.
As a result, Sylvester is unable to access his benefit from National Insurance Board (NIB) because of statutory limitation. “This was no fault of mine because of my medical condition,” Sylvester said.
In a letter dated March 28, 2010 to the NIB Manager by then Chief of Defence Staff Edmund Dillon, who is the current Minister of National Security, Dillon explained that the reason for Sylvester’s late claim submission was due to the late publication of the TTR Injury Report on the Part Two Orders indicating that he was on duty and not to be blamed.
The late publication of the Part Two Orders, Dillon said, was due to the negligence of the First Engineering Battalion located in Wallerfield, Arima. “Sylvester’s forms were misplaced on numerous times while he was on sick leave,” the letter stated.
Dillon added that Sylvester was misinformed and misrepresented because he was depending on the company office in his battalion to look after his welfare while he was hospitalised and on sick leave, “however, his office did not follow through, hence the reason he is faced with this unpredictable situation presently.”
“The Part II Orders were` published on February 9 2009 but the information pertaining to the above mentioned stated that he was not on duty and not to be blamed. This information had to be investigated and rectified before the employer completed section C on the NI 19 Injury Benefit Claim Form.
The publication of the TTR Part Two Orders was amended on November 16 2009 to indicate that the above mentioned was injured on August 21 2004 and he was on duty and not to be blamed.
The inconvenience is regretted,” Dillon said in the letter.
Sylvester’s condition has since worsened and is suffering from various neurological problems including lumbar and cervical spondylosis with radicular pains. Over the years he has developed severe muscle pains and spasms. Medication for Sylvester per month costs at average $10,000.
“Monies that I don’t have now. All my savings have been depleted and all I want is what is still due to me from the NIB I could see about getting my medication again so furthering medical aid,” Sylvester said.
“I just don’t even want what has happened to me to happen to any other soldier because it is just a terrible thing. I do not know how my days go by now but all my hope is failing. I feel as though I am an enemy of the State,” he added.