Illegal rates exposed, policy changed at Waikiki resort
Retired Army SGT Dan Swafford
WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -
He would never admit it but retired Army SGT Dan Swafford is an American hero.
"This isn't about me," said Swafford.
He was drafted in 1969 and spent the next two years in Vietnam calling in air strikes and artillery in combat. Swafford received three Purple hearts and two bronze stars.
"I was shot down in a helicopter with my right heel shot and inch of my bone cut off and 4 discs blown in my back. I came home through three hospitals." said Swafford.
After 31 surgeries Swafford's doctors classify him as 100 percent disabled.
The Hawaii native retired in Arizona but tries to make it home to visit family every year. The last four times he's stayed at the Hale Koa. But when he tried to book a room last week something didn't sit right.
"She was booking the ocean view at $125, Two minutes go by and she said to me oh I found you in the system. You're a 100 percent disabled veteran. That will be $154," said Swafford.
According to the hotel's website. A retired E-5 would fall into the category one price range. But since Swafford is also 100 percent disabled he falls into a higher price category as well. In fine print the website stated "If the occupant is eligible for multiple rates the highest rate will be used."
Executive Director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center, Lou Ertischik, said this policy needed to change.
"I'm guessing it wasn't really the intent of the hotel. But it was the effect of the policy. It would be illegal. It would be violation of federal law," said Ertischik.
Officials at the Hale Koa have been looking into the claim since we brought it to their attention Tuesday. Thursday morning the fine print we told you about on the website was gone and Hawaii News Now received this statement:
The Hale Koa Hotel's motto is "Serving Those Who Serve", and we take great pride in offering a Waikiki beachfront resort experience at the lowest possible rate for our Nation's active duty and retired military.
We do appreciate this disparity in our policy being brought to our attention.
It is the Armed Forces Recreation Center's policy to classify all 100% Disabled Veterans in Room Rate Category II of our pricing matrix. However, in unique situations such as this patron's retired E-5 status, along with recent expansion of Room Rate Category I to include the rank of E-6; offering our 100% Disabled Veterans the lowest rate for which they are eligible will now be the practice. If a 100 % Disabled Veteran presents a retired E1-E6 identification card, they will be offered the lower Category I room rate.
Eligibility requirements and applicable rates can be complex, and we appreciate this opportunity to review and address this concern. We remain fully committed to providing our service member guests, both past and present, vacation memories that will last a lifetime at the House of the Warrior.
The hotel wasn't able to tell us how many veterans had been over charged.
Swafford said he still plans to spend his vacation at the Hale Koa.