Cancer-fighting ex-Marine says nobody answered phone at Veterans Services

CHARLOTTE — A military veteran fighting cancer told Channel 9 that when he called Mecklenburg County's Veterans Services for help, no one answered.

The voicemail that retired Marine Richard Lewis received stated that Veterans Services were suspended due to the pandemic and that the mailbox was no being monitored.

Lewis was recently diagnosed with brain cancer that has spread to his lungs and needed help filing a claim with the VA.

“I was sad. I was lost,” he said. “Then, I got mad.”

The county office voicemail stated services are suspended because of the novel coronavirus and that messages are not being monitored.

Lewis told Channel 9 he worries about veterans who may need immediate help. He said he couldn't believe his ears when he called the county for help.

“Had they been in a crisis and called that number saying it was closed, that could be a life-or-death situation,” Lewis said.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Elaine Powell told Channel 9 that the recording is not accurate, and she has stepped in to get it corrected.

“I feel very strongly about this,” she said. “It is my understanding that all of our employees are still on payroll and they should be answering the telephone.”

Channel 9 learned that Veterans Services updated the recording on Tuesday. They’re not accepting walk-in clients but will serve them virtually or by appointment.

Veterans who leave a message at 704-336-2102 will be called back.

Meanwhile, Lewis was able to receive help from the Veterans Services staff in Gastonia.