A Nova Scotia man who served for almost 20 years in the navy says he doesn't know how he's supposed to make ends meet with the pension he's receiving.

An on-duty incident in Barbados in the mid 90s left Bill MacKay with several injuries. The Department of National Defence acknowledges the incident happened, but says a neck injury MacKay isn't because of that.

“I have got a steel plate that keeps your vertebrae from shifting and four screws,” says MacKay. “I’ve got osteoarthritis really bad in the neck and in the spine. There’s days I might not even get out of bed.”

Veterans Affairs has rejected MacKay’s neck injury twice. The added benefit would mean more money for him and his wife, Bonnie. He's now on his third attempt, with an appeal hearing pending in Prince Edward Island. 

Mackay says the injury forced him into early retirement because he could no longer lift weapons or equipment. Now at 60, he can't work any longer and says his military pension and disability benefit isn't enough to make ends meet.

“We're behind the eight ball so bad we couldn't even afford to claim bankruptcy,” says MacKay.

The couple lives in a 40-year-old mobile home and MacKay can’t afford to get his truck fixed. They eat mostly canned food, and he and his wife they have to choose which medication is most important.

Veterans advocate Peter Stoffer says he hears this all the time, and says there are thousands of cases waiting to be heard by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

But Veterans Affairs says of the issues vets bring to the appeal board, 81 per cent are recognized and approved on the first try.

“If a veteran has exhausted all redress options at the board and remains dissatisfied, they have the right to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision," Veterans Affairs Canada said in a statement.

MacKay and his wife feel they have exhausted their options.

“He saw a lot. He witnessed a lot. And they are not giving him any help at all,” says Bonny MacKay.

The couple feels forgotten and worried about winter, now facing a future without much hope that this last appeal is going to work.

“These are people that took an oath to serve this country and it doesn't seem to matter to (Veterans Affairs),” says MacKay.

Veterans Affairs tells CTV News they can't comment on  specific cases, but say any veteran with an issue like this should  reach out if they feel they're not receiving enough support.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.