Medford veteran: My PTSD prevents me from wearing a mask, getting in person VA treatment

WHITE CITY, Ore. —A local veteran says he can’t get in-person medical care at the VA in White City, because of a disability. The veteran says he can’t wear a mask, because he says his PTSD takes him back to his time in combat.

Medford resident, Jonathan Kitchen joined the Marine reserve when he was just 17 years old. He was immediately activated and sent to Iraq. He later transferred to the Army, but that came with some challenges.

“My service came to an end when it became clear to my command that my PTSD no longer made me fit for service,” said Kitchen.

The 34-year-old still carries the trauma from his service today. Kitchen tells us he suffers from PTSD and an anxiety disorder. But the pandemic created even more obstacles for him.

“I can’t wear the mask because whenever I am compelled to wear a mask, I emotionally feel like I am thrust back into a war zone,” said Kitchen.

The White City Veteran Affairs Rehabilitation Center has been his primary resource for care. Kitchen says he requested accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act, to be able to come into the facility without wearing a mask. He says the request extends to exams, and different procedures deemed necessary by VA health care employees, that can’t be performed through alternative methods, like telehealth.

He even showed us his proof of disability, from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“They have repeatedly told me that you have to wear a mask, we’re sorry there are no exceptions,” said Kitchen.

The VA’s website says, “Everyone who enters our hospitals, clinics, and vet centers must wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose. If you’re fully vaccinated, our staff will tell you if it’s safe to remove your mask during your visit.”

Kitchen says he is going through an appeal process.

We reached out to the White City VA  for comment but did not hear back.

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Jenna King is the 6pm anchor and our Feature Reporter at 10pm and 11pm for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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