Mark Walker -
A Marine Corps veteran caught up in the scandal that drove Bob Filner out of office said Friday problems she’s experienced in getting help for injuries suffered in Iraq have been resolved.
Katherine Ragazzino’s story of going to Filner’s office for help in June and having a nurse serving as her advocate harassed by Filner drew particular community outrage.
Ragazzino and her advocate for her, nurse Michelle Tyler, met with Filner in June seeking his help in getting the Department of Veterans Affairs to be more responsive to the former Marine’s health-care needs.
Tyler said Filner asked to be alone with her and then said he would help Ragazzino if she agreed to have a romantic relationship with him.
After telling her story, her Ragazzino said the office of Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, intervened and brokered meetings that have addressed the bulk of her care issues.
“All my discrepancies were resolved,” she said during a Fridays conference with attorney Gloria Allred. “The Veterans Benefits Administration has acknowledged there were oversights that extended back to the day of my medical discharge from the Marine Corps in 2009.”
Ragazzino suffered a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
She also made an impassioned plea for other veterans not to let her experience dissuade them from reaching out to elected officials.
“That’s their job,” she said. “I am one of thousands, so it does not end here. It is paramount that we stand together toward change within the system so we can greatly shorten the VA’s backlog and the wait time to receive benefits after serving in the military for our country.”
Friday was her late father’s birthday, she said in a halting voice. He also served in the Marine Corps and survived the bloody battle for the Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World War II.
“He is my hero, and my main purpose for joining the Marine Corps,” she said. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
Also at the news conference was Peggy Shannon, a City Hall volunteer and great-grandmother who alleges Filner made multiple tawdry remarks to her, including once bragging about his sexual prowess and kissed her on the lips without her permission.
Shannon said she happened to arrive at work at the same time as Filner on Monday and that her heart stopped as she tried to avoid him.
“I turned away until he went upstairs,” Shannon said. “I was a victim, and now I’m a survivor.”
Allred played a key role in driving Filner from office, and the renowned Los Angeles attorney used the occasion of his last day as mayor to deliver some parting “gifts.”
The items included a pocket-sized description of sexual harassment for his future reference and a hand-held mirror she said he could look at when he wonders why he’s no longer mayor. She also had a hand-written note saying she looks forward to seeing Filner at his deposition in the only a sexual harassment lawsuit against Filner and the city that Allred has filed on behalf of his former communications chief, Irene McCormack Jackson.