I'm glad I stumbled upon this site. Maybe I can get some guidance from some of you. Here goes:
We lost my dad, a Vietnam Veteran, on Veteran's Day 2009. He was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer in July of 2009. Never connecting the dots to Agent Orange exposure. He never went to the VA for health care. He felt he was lucky enough to have health care through his employment and the VA should be for the guys that weren't as fortunate. However, after his death I suggested to my mother that we stop at the local VA (Rocky Hill/Newington, CT)to see if there was some sort of benefit she could receive since my dad was a veteran. To our surprise they told us that his illness could have been "Combat Related" and we had definite "recourse to file a claim". Wow, that was a bittersweet thing to hear.
We filed the claim in December 2009 and got denied in February 2010. We appealed in March 2010, sending a copy of my dad's complete pathology report. Sadly, my father also had a small cancerous polyp in his bladder - which was removed and the bladder was deemed clear. Of course the VA denied the first appeal stating that his cancer started in his bladder and spread to his lung. This was never eluded to in any way in his pathology report. To say it started in his bladder was a good way to avert the attention away from his lung - being that respiratory cancer is one of the 14 illnesses the VA recognizes as being combat related.
We were denied again in December 2010 (nearly 8 months having not heard anything). This time our veteran's representative from our local VA sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Phildelphia requesting a judicial hearing. On March 7, 2011 we received another letter from Philidelphia (form 20-8992) stating they received our application for benefits and they "desire to decide our case promptly". They go on to say they have numerous claims and action on ours may be delayed. Also, they are deciding if they need additional evidence or info. The letter finishes basically saying, don't call us we'll call you.
After we were denied in December 2010 I took up an email writing campaign. I have written to all of my local representives, congressmen and even the President (couldn't hurt). While I have heard back personally from a few of these people (not the president of course), we're still stuck in an endless loop. Don't get me wrong, I know people have been riding this merry-go-round for much longer then we have. I've even written to Henry Rollins (ex-punk rocker, writer, world traveler, USO member and recently an advocate for Agent Orange Awareness), to my surprise he wrote me back too.
For our family the loss of my father has been devastating. He was a friend to all with a sense of humor that could make anyone's day. After being married for 40 years my mother is now missing half of her heart. When my father retired from the City of Bristol Public Works Department, he and his colleagues choose "normal retirement". We found out after his death that "normal retirement" meant a little more money per month, but at his death my mother would not receive a pension. My son and I live upstairs from my mom. I see everyday how she struggles financially only living on her Social Security. All of this due to our own government contaminating my father's being.
So...what to do now? Just wait?