Robert Martuszewski

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Florida has the third largest population of veterans in the nation.

Robert Martuszewski

The Martuszewskis were preparing for the arrival of their second child when husband and father, Robert, joined the Army. The young family needed a steady income to ensure the stability of their children’s lives. They could not have predicted what would happen next.

“September 11th happened less than a year later,” Robert said. “Then we started ramping up and deploying overseas. I did five combat tours, two to Iraq and three to Afghanistan, then a number of other countries that weren’t combat, like Pakistan, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain.

Robert served for fourteen years before a pre-deployment screening recommended a medical discharge, much to his dismay. While his commitment to serving his country was unwavering, he didn’t know how he’d continue to provide for his family. The injuries he’d sustained in multiple incidents involving IEDs, coupled with the destruction of his Humvee by a landmine, had resulted in long-term disabilities. 

Almost a decade after his discharge, Robert’s injuries and pain had become so severe that it typically took fifteen minutes to get from his bed to the bathroom to start his day. At his regular visits to the VA Hospital, Robert’s doctors expressed confusion when learning of his low disability rating. “The doctors would say in front of me, ‘Why aren’t you [rated at] 100%?’”

Amidst this one-man struggle to amend his rating, Robert’s friend recommended Bay Area Legal Services, and eventually Robert began working with attorney Maria Ceballos-Zagales, of the Veterans Team. At last, Robert discovered he was not alone in this fight. 

“I was just overwhelmed by how much she [cared], and how much she was willing to help me day and night.”

Maria assisted Robert in gathering the necessary documentation and evaluations that would provide the VA with a full picture of the severity of his disabilities and of their immense impact on his everyday life and the life of his family. She spent many hours earning Robert’s trust, providing him with the time he needed to open up about the difficult experiences he’d struggled with for too many years. Once the full picture of the impact of his PTSD emerged, Maria was able to present a very strong case.

The Martuszewskis & Maria

Left to right: Robert Martuszewski, Attorney Maria Ceballos-Zagales, and Robert's wife, Nicole.

One day, Robert checked his account on the e-benefits website and was in total shock at what he discovered: “I was in tears when I found out I was 100%... Almost ten years I’ve been fighting this since I got out [of the Army] in 2014.” He also received the Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) categorization. Seemingly overnight, Robert’s life and the security of his family drastically improved.

“There’s, like, no help for veterans out there. Your organization, your office, it’s the saving grace, at least on my behalf. Without you guys, I’d be struggling much worse," said Robert.

The amount of stress that’s been lifted off of me because I’m able to get the care I need is unbelievable, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you guys.”

Robert Martuszewski

Robert Martuszewski

former client of the Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center

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