Plight of a proud navy veteran

  • Letters
  • Friday, 27 Sep 2019

I ENLISTED with the Royal Malaysian Navy, which was then based in Woodlands, Singapore, on May 25, 1965 – during the peak period of the Malaysia-Indonesia Confrontation. After completing 13 years of compulsory service and after the Confrontation was well and truly over, I called it a day and promised that “I will again return” if this beloved multiracial country of ours is again threatened.

That is my two cents worth about my contribution to King and country.

On Sept 14, 2018, I underwent a coronary artery bypass graft operation at the National Heart Institute (IJN). A day later, on Sept 15, while still under intensive care, I suffered a stroke and lost the use of my left upper and lower limbs. Thereafter, I became disabled.

Prior to my Sept 28 discharge, and on the doctor’s advice, I acquired relevant equipment to facilitate my recovery at home, such as electric hospital bed, wheelchair, quad cane and commode chair.

In February 2019, a reimbursement claim was submitted to the Veteran Affairs Department (JHEV). A few days later someone from JHEV called asking for a supporting letter or memo from a government doctor failing which JHEV would not process the claim.

Three months later I received a payment for less than half the amount I had claimed.

When I enquired why I was not fully reimbursed, JHEV’s excuse was that they were bound by the government doctor’s letter which stated that I am only entitled to claim for a manually cranked hospital bed.

Since the government doctor’s handwritten letter was in English and suspecting that JHEV personnel could not understand English, I emailed a reply with a brief translation highlighting the word “electric bed”.

Perhaps realising their mistake, JHEV came up with another “excuse”, saying that for a claim exceeding RM2,000 I have to submit a full medical report.

On Aug 6, a full medical report, handwritten by the surgeon who operated on me, was submitted to JHEV.

On Aug 22, I received another letter from JHEV rejecting my claim with yet another “excuse”. Instead of trying to grasp the meaning and implications of “permanent stroke” that was written in the medical report, JHEV opted to pick on an irrelevant phrase in the report: “postoperatively, he was noted to have left limb weakness (power 3/5).”

Why is it irrelevant?

“Left limb weakness (power 3/5)” was an assessment done on Aug 6, approximately 11 months (or 325 days) after the stroke and hundreds of hours of rehabilitation workouts; it is not an assessment from the day I was discharged from IJN, still unable to move my left upper and lower limbs, which necessitated the acquisition of an electric hospital bed.

I understand that one of the decision makers at JHEV is a practising doctor. But if the doctor is worth his medical degree he does not need firsthand experience (or does he?) to grasp the meaning of “permanent stroke” that disabled the nerve and muscle tissues causing not only foot drop, shoulder subluxation and winged scapula but also loss of strength.

When someone painted a not-so-bright picture of our Armed Forces, virtually the whole country was offended, not least the “microphone throwing” Defence Minister.

Yet a 74-year-old ailing veteran who spent 13 years of the prime of his life defending the independence of this country is treated like a beggar by JHEV, and emails sent to the Defence Minister highlighting my plight are ignored. Why?

When I joined the navy, our British instructor seconded from the Royal Navy instilled in us an attitude that I still treasure dearly, that “to surrender is not an option and to keep fighting even after we have expended our last ammo” and hence this letter, hoping against hope that someone in authority will reach out to the decision-makers at JHEV. And remind them of Abraham Lincoln’s advice, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”.

To err is human, but to persist in error (out of pride) is diabolical.


Rank & File Veteran


Royal Malaysian Navy (Woodlands)
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