TAMPA — Tony Jacondino woke up at 4 a.m. He watched some television, took a shower and smoked a cigarette. It was like any other morning, except this time, the World War II veteran was nervous.
Jacondino, 84, and his wife arrived at the Veterans Affairs audiology clinic an hour early. They left time for unexpected events, like a flat tire. "I'd call a cab if that happened," Jacondino said.
The results of Jacondino's hearing exam could determine if he's eligible for a VA disability pension. He believes his tinnitus — the ringing in his ears — was caused by the booming cannon on the tank he drove for several years in the Philippines.
He's not sure how much money he could receive from the VA, but knows anything would help.
Jacondino has been panhandling since June, after his wife suffered a minor stroke and had to quit her job. He was ashamed to stand in the median at Columbus Drive and Dale Mabry Highway, but he didn't see any other option as they fell about $400 behind on their bills each month.
At the clinic, the doctor listened to Jacondino's issues for about 10 minutes. He brought his medications: one for his heart, one for his blood pressure, one for cholesterol and one to help him sleep.
Then the doctor gave him headphones and conducted the hearing test. Jacondino estimates it lasted about a half an hour.
"I tried my best," he said.
At the end, he asked the doctor how he did, but she couldn't say. He said she told him that because he's seeking compensation, he'll have to wait to hear from VA officials in about six to eight weeks.
Jacondino is hopeful he'll hear back earlier. In the meantime, he knows he'll be okay. He and his wife are in a better position now.
After reading about Jacondino's financial plight in the St. Petersburg Times on Jan. 8, some readers donated to Jacondino. Then, mid week, Carol Jacondino, 62, got her first Social Security check. And someone took care of one of her medical bills, she said.
Tony Jacondino hasn't panhandled all week, he said. Jacondino said the additional Social Security income helps a lot, but without health insurance for Carol, he's still concerned about their financial situation.
He asked that a reporter convey one thing: "Can you say that I am so overwhelmed with the people who responded, who were so concerned? I want to thank them very, very much."