Agent Orange Vietnam Veterans
Slipping Through The Cracks, Injustice To Veterans Exposed To Agent Orange Outside Of Vietnam
I am the wife of a Vietnam Era Veteran. My husband, Joe, was exposed to Agent Orange while he was stationed in Korea from 1970-1971. The Department of Defense waited until 2008 to admit the use of Agent Orange outside of Vietnam. We found out quite by chance, when my husband now confined to a wheelchair, joined the Disabled American Veterans & began receiving their magazine. I wonder how many veterans don’t know that they were exposed? Inside the DAV magazine was an article stating that Agent Orange was used at the Korean DMZ.
They had listed the presumptive diseases associated with exposure. My husband has at this time, one of them, Ischemic Heart Disease. He’s had angina attacks, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath since 1974. We contacted a service officer at the DAV regarding this article. In October 2010 We traveled to their Newark, NJ offices & met with him. He asked several questions: What unit were you with? Where were you stationed? What was your MOS? and more. At first they could not find the 51st signal battalion, and told him that they were not there. Then they looked to see with whom they were attached, and found his unit. We were told that, yes, the 51st signal battalion was used as support troops (as if we didn’t know already) at the Korean DMZ, & he should file a claim. So we did. And so our journey begins.
Here is where being young and inexperienced comes to bite us in the a**. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS, when you move, or change physicians TAKE A COPY OF YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS WITH YOU!!!, even if you are feeling healthy. When you are young, you don’t think that your country will betray you or be less than truthful. Think again. Politicians have their own interests in mind.
We need to prove he’s had this medical condition since 1974. The physician he was seeing after he received his Honorable Discharge, had retired in 1980, his records destroyed. The physician he was seeing in the 1980’s to 1990 prior to our moving only keeps records of former patients for 10 yrs., his records destroyed. I had only one record of a physician he was seeing after our move also prior to him going to the VA for all his medical care in the year 2001. This is not looking good. At the most, we have his medical records from when he started getting his care at the VA. At this point in time, he has many more health issues, Sleep apnea, C.O.P.D., G.E.R.D., Depression, & Coronary Artery Disease, to go along with the Ischemic Heart Disease.
The first denial letter came a few months after he filed, December. The reason being, that the base camp was 21 miles south of the Korean DMZ. They are only recognizing a 5 mile swath from the DMZ as being in the spray zone. He files his first appeal. Then after several months of hearing nothing and many calls to the Service Officer, we were informed, that the VA had lost his file. Now, we ask our congressman for help. Two weeks later, his file is found. Fast forward to 2012. After four denials and appeals, he files with the help of his National Service Officer for a video conference hearing (he is now unable to walk on his own). He is informed that it will take at least a year to set it up. He is also informed that he needs Buddy Statements (personal verifications from those with whom he served) to prove that he was at the Korean DMZ. Now he has two more health issues, Type 2 Diabetes, and Peripheral Neuropathy. He’s also having digestive problems for which he has no diagnosis. I have been trying since 2010, now to gather all the information possible that may help prove his case. I must say, C.O.V.V.H.A. has been instrumental in providing sources of information, and many links to other sites that have helped us.
Joe has made a little progress in his efforts to get his case heard before the V.B.A. He received a letter in June 2013 stating that he is now on a list to get on the docket for a video hearing. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we still have been unable to locate his friends from the Army to prove his case. So it is now that I am turning to all of you reading this and pleading for your help. He needs to find his fellow “Wire Rats” who went to the Korean DMZ as support troops during 1970 to 1971.
8TH ARMY, 51ST SIGNAL BATTALION, A COMPANY, WIRE PLATOON, CAMP PILLILAAU, OIJONGBU, KOREA
VICTOR (CRIS) CRISCOULO & JAMES FOSTER were two of his best friends during his service in Korea in 1970-1971 from the wire platoon.
PLEASE, IF YOU KNOW THESE OR ANY OTHER OF THE MEN FROM HIS UNIT, contact me Joan Laufnick via COVVHA@GMAIL.COM
This is affecting all Vietnam Era Veterans exposed outside of Vietnam. The Department of Defense waited over 45 years to admit Agent Orange was used outside of Vietnam. They have placed a higher burden of proof on these Veterans. Our spouses are dying of the same diseases of those who were boots on the ground in Vietnam. Our children suffer the same birth defects. Yet these exposed, and ill Veterans, have to find their fellow unit friends after 45 years without any resources from the government to assist them in their search. How many will never be given their benefits because they no longer have contact with their former unit buddies or those unit members have since died?
© 2013 Joan Laufnick
(COVVHA) Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance INC. All rights reserved.