FOX 8 Defenders: Disabled man without special wheelchair for months

New Orleans--A specialized power wheelchair gives 32-year-old Reginald Martes mobility and independence.  His movement and muscles are impaired because of the cerebral palsy disorder he's had since birth.

"I mean this is life.  He's always gonna be in the wheelchair, and this is his legs you know so he need it," said Lynette Carter, Reginald's mother.

When Reginald's wheelchair broke last year, his mother said it stripped him of his freedom for months.  "About seven to eight months.. we were using a manual chair, which isn't good because he fell out that at least three to four times," said Carter.

Carter said the delay happened when she applied for a new chair through Medicaid under the state Department of Health and Hospitals.  "They would deny the paperwork.  Medicaid was giving us a hard time.  They kept sending the paperwork back, saying that you know it was incomplete," explained Carter.  "I would call them and tell them you know each time he fell.. could you speed the process up because he needs his chair," she said.

At the ARC of Greater New Orleans for adults with disabilities, Reginald participates in several activities, which include sorting Mardi Gras beads to be recycled.  ARC program coordinator Anne Guidry said without a power wheelchair, Reginald had a tough few months.  "It enables him to engage in different activities that might be going on in different areas, and so it was sort of hard for him to make his way to the activities he wanted to engage in," said Guidry.

With the price tag in the thousands of dollars, buying a power wheelchair outright wasn't an option so Reginald's mom turned to the FOX 8 Defenders for help.

"Once they got involved.. the very next day they called, and said they approved the paperwork for his chair," said Carter.  The new and improved chair gave Reginald his freedom back.  His smile that's contagious is also back and bigger.

A spokesperson with the Department of Health and Hospitals tells FOX 8 the initial request for wheelchair repairs last August was denied because they were too costly.  The DHH spokesperson also said it was more cost effective to purchase a new one.  While the provider was made aware over the phone, according to DHH, written notification was never issued because of "an error by the keypuncher entering the information."  A request for the new chair wasn't submitted until November, and it was denied, DHH says for a few reasons, including incomplete and conflicting information regarding measurements.  DHH recommends patients work with their doctors and therapists to make sure necessary equipment is prescribed and that all documentation is in order.

If you have a consumer concern, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397.