A Mankato veteran said he’s fully recovered from open heart surgery last fall, but recovering financially has proven more challenging after years of battling the government.

Joe Steck said he applied for Social Security disability when he first became ill eleven years ago and was denied over and over. However, he got some good news recently.

“The federal government had overturned the Minnesota judges ruling that I wasn’t disabled at the time,” he explained.

And a judge said on Wednesday that he was confused by the repeated denials of those benefits. Steck said, “The judge said, ‘I don’t understand why this was denied before because it was evident you couldn’t do anything for an extended period of time.'”

Before he became ill, Steck said he was fully prepared for his later years and, “Had disability insurance, I had savings, I had retirement plans, I had health insurance. All of those resources just got exhausted so I ended up having to turn to the government and the government failed me.”

It’s not the first time Steck has had to battle a government agency. His heart problem was misdiagnosed by the VA as panic attacks around 4 years ago, and after a series of heart attacks and surgery, he said he also had to fight to get the appropriate aftercare as well.

He is hoping to see reforms that lead the government to better care for the nation’s veterans.

Steck served in the Air Force from 1980 to 1984 as an in-flight refueling specialist. He also was in the National Guard as a medical platoon officer and infantry officer from 1984 until 1990.