(WSVN) - When some disabled veterans have work done on their homes, they do not have to pay for permits. If you didn’t know it, you are not alone. When one vet tried to show the city the law, he says they still charged him, and it’s why he asked Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to step in for him.

When Matt Coplan was a child, he told his parents he wanted to join the military.

Matthew Coplan, Vietnam veteran: “That’s me when I was little. That’s when I was cute.”

As a teenager, he enlisted in the Navy and was sent to fight in the Vietnam War.

Matthew Coplan: “I was shot in the abdomen. Bullet went in right where my belly button is, hit my spine. I wasn’t able to walk for a short period of time. They didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to walk again.”

It’s hard for Matt to talk about, but through great determination, he regained the ability to walk, even though the damage was permanent.

Matthew Coplan: “I’m a 100% disabled veteran.”

Patrick Fraser: “Are you proud of what you did for your country?”

Matthew Coplan: “Oh, hell, yeah.”

Not surprisingly, as Matt as aged, his spinal cord has deteriorated. To slow it, doctors suggested some specific exercise equipment.

Matthew Coplan: “It’s the only place that I have room, so I wanted to build this room out there to be able to put this exercise equipment in.”

This is the part of the patio Matt wanted to enclose. Talk about a nightmare.

Matthew Coplan: “This is going to become a recessed light.”

In 2019, his first contractor quit. The architect disappeared.

The second one died of COVID, and a third architect had to redraw the plans.

Matthew Coplan: “For a job that originally was gonna be about a $10,000 job, it will be about $25,000 by the time I’m done with it.”

But Matt recently got some good news.

Matthew Coplan: “It was the Disabled American Veterans that informed me of the law.”

The group told Matt since he was a 100% disabled veteran, a Florida statute said he did not have to pay for permits to build ramps, widening of doors and similar improvements.

Matthew Coplan: “None of the city employees that I talked to knew about it.”

Matt says he sent the statute to the Weston building officials who charged him $1,200 for the permits. They wouldn’t return the money.

Matthew Coplan: “They are ignorant of the law. That’s no excuse.”

The day before we met with Matt, the city charged him a $200 permit fee for a door.

Matthew Coplan: “The stress for me has been immense, and I am glad you are here help take that off of me.”

Glad to do it, but Howard, before I start, the statute covers doors and ramps. How about a room? And does it also cover returning money spent on permits?

Howard Finikelstein, 7News legal expert: “The statute doesn’t specify enclosing a room, but it says ‘improvements for the purpose for making the home habitable and safe for the 100% disabled veteran.’ This room will help Matt preserve his ability to walk, a problem a war wound caused, so a smart government official should say, ‘Do not fight this one. Give the veterans a break.'”

I contacted a Weston building official. He didn’t think the statute covered Matt’s patio since it didn’t specify enclosing a structure.

I then spoke to Weston’s city manager, Don Decker. He was great. He said he had not been told about Matt’s permits, and they had never had a request like this from a veteran in Weston.

He then returned the $1,200 for the permits for the enclosed room, plus the $200 permit Matt had just pulled to replace a door.

Matthew Coplan: “I want to thank Patrick, Channel 7, everybody, for the support.”

Matt’s room is slowly coming together, and he wants to make sure every disabled veteran knows they don’t have to pay for certain permits as well.

Matthew Coplan: “From the contractors and the cities, and especially the veterans, to understand this is a benefit that we all have, and we need to have it granted to us.”

Glad we could help, and glad the Weston city manager stepped up for Matt as well.

Now, if you are a 100% disabled veteran or know one, and are being told you have to pay for permits, the link to the statute that says you don’t is at the end of this Help Me Howard story. Let the government officials see it, because many don’t know about the benefit for disabled vets. God knows they earned it.

Trouble building for you? Need to design a solution? Let us vet the problem, and permit us to construct a quick fix.

Florida statute relating to 100% disabled veterans and permit fees

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox