TAMPA — Just days after his hearing exam, World War II veteran Anthony Jacondino got a call from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
A VA employee told him he qualifies for disability compensation for his tinnitus and hearing loss. Jacondino, 84, says the modest monthly check is enough for him to pack up his panhandling gear.
"I'm overwhelmed," he said Friday. "I don't have to degrade myself anymore."
Jacondino unpinned his Victory Medal from the orange vest and put it in a metal tin. He folded the vest and placed it in his closet.
His wife, Carol Jacondino, is elated he'll no longer spend two mornings each week standing in the median of a busy intersection.
"His mind can be at peace, and he can be with me," she said.
Anthony Jacondino started begging on Tampa's streets in June, shortly after Carol suffered a minor stroke and had to quit her job.
He received Social Security, but it wasn't enough, he said, so he pursued compensation from the VA. He believed his hearing damage was caused by the cannon on a tank he drove in the Philippines, but nearly a year later, the VA still hadn't made a decision.
In December, Valrico resident Lisa Lapina noticed Jacondino standing in the median of Columbus Drive and Dale Mabry Highway as she drove to work. She asked him what his story was and contacted the St. Petersburg Times.
"I can't believe this poor man is out here, when he really should be taken care of because of his service to his country," she said.
The week after Jacondino's story ran in the Times, the VA scheduled a hearing exam. He got word of the approval this week.
On Friday, he called Lapina to tell her the good news.
"I said, 'Thank you. I will never forget you.' "
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or email@example.com.