EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 24, 2012

Disabled Methuen veteran gets a wheelchair ramp for Christmas

Coalition of groups team up to give Frank Gioia the gift he couldn't afford

(Continued)

“This is the easiest way to get it done, because we’re not dealing with all the VA stuff and all the bureaucracy. We don’t have to go through all the paper work in getting approval,” Hargreaves said.

Silva, of the local DAV chapter, noted that the bureaucratic process involving filing applications, following design specifications and going before municipal boards to get ramps approved can often discourage veterans from seeking the government’s help.

“There’s too much involved when you deal directly with any form of government like this,” Silva said.

“If the government built this ramp, they’d have to follow the specifications. But because it’s a temporary ramp and it’s a personal home, they don’t have to follow the specifications,” he said.

Silva said he also plans to seek volunteer help from other groups in building future wheelchair ramps for veterans. Groups like YouthBuild and the Greater Lawrence Vocational Technical School could provide free labor while learning a trade, he said.

“The DAV continues to try and support our local veterans through whatever means possible in order for members to stay in their homes where they are most comfortable,” he said.

Up until recently, living at home had become a tough challenge for both Gioia and his wife, who have been married for 35 years.

“It was kind of a heavy burden just getting Frank to walk down the stairs, said Carol Gioia, 69, who with her son would carry him off the end of the porch.

“Before they put in the ramp, the only time we were actually getting out of the house was to go to the doctors or for therapy,” she said.

Carol Gioia suffers from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a common lung disease which makes it difficult to breathe. She takes oxygen.

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