LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas — A Liberty County deputy shot and wounded in the line of duty last year is still fighting to recover from his injuries.
Deputy Richard Whitten has spent six months at TIRR Memorial Hermann. He's hoping to soon go home, but his wife says it's been a battle to get everything he needs.
“It’s just something you don’t expect to happen,” said Kami Whitten, his wife.
It’s hard for her to process what’s happened to her husband of 18 years.
“He gets up every morning and he keeps on going. He’s the bravest man I know,” she said.
Deputy Whitten was shot in the neck by a murder suspect last year.
“He needs me. That’s the biggest drive for me,” Kami Whitten said.
While his she’s been by his side in the hospital, The 100 Club donated a van to help bring Deputy Whitten home.
The problem was the insurance company notified the family it would only pay for certain modifications on the van and the Whittens were left to find funding for around $20,000.
“I feel like we have been left to struggle on our own," she said.
They were told to try the Texas Attorney General’s Victims' Compensation Fund.
But fearing Deputy Whitten would be released before the funding would come through, they started reaching out to anyone who would listen.
The 100 Club stepped in again, in an email to the insurance company saying, “We have never seen the family forced to pay anything for a workers compensation, on duty injury like this."
“When I saw the emails that were coming through, I couldn’t stand by any longer, I had to say something," said Sheri Cortez, a wife of a HPD officer injured in a separate shooting.
She started rallying support on Facebook and finally all the modifications for the van got approved.
“I just want a safe environment to bring my husband home to and I want a safe vehicle to bring him to the doctors he’s going to have for the rest of his life," Kami Whitten said.
The insurance company, Texas Political Subdivisions, released the following statement:
"TPS has already sent payment for the full cost of the special modifications/adaptations to the basic van graciously purchased for Deputy and Mrs. Whitten by the 100 Club of Houston. We did have to work through the fact that the highly reputable company retrofitting the van had already installed numerous items that were not deemed medically necessary and would not normally be covered by workers’ compensation insurance."
Medical expenses such as a modified van are covered based on the requirements set forth by the treating physician and pre-authorized for compliance with state law and the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation guidelines. A significant number of items pre-installed in the van for the Whittens are not considered medically necessary, such as a 4-passenger reclining sofa in the rear of the van or the television and DVD system. To my knowledge, no workers’ comp insurer would normally pay for additional items such as these that are not related to the injured worker’s medical needs.
However, after our representative met last week with the company retrofitting the van (and confirmed that the flooring is appropriate), we learned that those items could not be removed. We could have chosen to have them order another van to be retrofitted with only medically necessary items. However, we were informed that it would take weeks or even months to get another van. With Deputy Whitten hoping to be discharged from TIRR Memorial Hermann within the next 3 weeks, we made the decision to pay for the extraneous modifications to insure that there would be no delay in getting the van to them prior to his discharge.
As with every injured worker, including the paralyzed Galveston police officer we have been caring for since 1984, TPS is committed to providing all necessary care and assistance to Deputy Whitten.
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