Gig Line: Leave no leaf unturned

Published 5:48 pm Monday, October 11, 2021

Several weeks (columns) ago, I wrote that the Veterans Administration had sent letters out to veterans (or their spouse if they were deceased) announcing that three medical conditions that Vietnam veterans might have submitted claims for in the past that which were not included in the “presumptive list” potentially because of exposure to Agent Orange had very recently been added. Those conditions were as follows: bladder cancer; hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism-like symptoms. (Parkinson’s disease itself was added to the presumptive list in 2010).

In my husband’s case, he had submitted a claim initially years ago regarding his diabetes II and hypothyroidism, however, he was only awarded disability compensation for the diabetes. Later, he submitted a claim after finding out he was suffering from an aggressive, deadly brain cancer, glioblastoma mutiforme II and after his second attempt for consideration, he was denied. Very sadly, he died only four months from our finding out his diagnosis and learning that many of his brothers had passed from the same illness.

When I received the letter as his widow stating that the three newly added diseases included hypothyroidism, I contacted our Dare County Veteran Service Officer, Patty O’Sullivan (252-475-5604, dcvac@darenc.com) and signed the necessary document to follow through. That was on July 9, 2021 and I have since called the referenced V.A.’s 800 number to inquire the status upon which time the rep told me it was in process, that his “boots on ground” in Vietnam had been verified and that I would be receiving a letter regarding their determination. At this point in time, I’m still waiting for their letter or further communication.

While I was on the phone though, I discussed with her that Billy had later developed the brain cancer in addition to the diabetes II and its toll on his body and I asked why with all the Vietnam veterans who had developed glioblastoma brain cancer, was it not also on the presumptive list. She said that that was a question to bring before Congress since they were who made the decisions to add illnesses – not the V.A.

Initially, after my Billy was diagnosed, my sister researched the disease and told me about a woman who had lost her husband also a Vietnam veteran to glioblastoma mutiforme. She had understood in talking to the lady that she had been on a quest since his passing to unite other widows whose husband had died from it and through time had grown her internet following substantially. She said she had established a website and a long list of those who had lost their true love and that her diligent efforts and leadership in gathering strangers together for information, comfort and support was a major step to awareness.

At first, I couldn’t reach out, even with her phone number at my fingertips; I was too heart broken. Eventually, I made the call and spoke with her, finding her to be compassionate, understanding and helpful. In our conversations, I came to realize the numbers of Vietnam veterans who had suffered and died from that horrible debilitating disease were staggering.

My point is this: even though time has passed, I will gather information, statistics and I’ll compose a letter to Congress to ask the simple question WHY? It is the same disease Senator John McCain (Arizona) died of in 2018. It is brutal, it is a thief, it is the cause of countless broken spirits, hearts and all who served in the “Hell Hole” (as Billy called it), who should be shown the acknowledgment and respect they deserve from the clearly established exposure they endured.

If you are a Vietnam veteran who has never considered that your illness or medical condition could be a result of your exposure to Agent Orange and you have not attempted to investigate the possibility you may be due for disability compensation, please take the time and contact Patty. Again, her office number is 252-475-5604. Leave your full name, a detailed message and at least one, if not two, call back numbers. She will call you and it could be well worth your time. I thank the good Lord that my husband, who was a very proud man and who never asked or expected anything from anybody, made the effort for us, which has helped me tremendously since his passing.

All veterans deserve gratitude, love, respect and support from all of us. If you know a veteran who’s having a rough time, who could use some help, a friend, anything – please let Patty, myself (252-202-2058) or our local Outer Banks V.F.W. Post 10950, American Legion Post 26 or OBX Marine Corps League #1264 members know. There is a lot of local and eager help here.

Until next time, be healthy, safe and happy. I love you all and I pray for blessings and peace in your lives. God bless you. Giglineheroes.com is a place to find many writings from over the years; visit it you get a chance. Stay tuned.

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