Agent Orange and Diabetes for Vietnam Vets

listen this page Listen the this Page
Posted on: Thursday, March 08, 2012

Jim,

Dealing with the VA and finding out what benefits my brother may be eligible for has been a nightmare so far. I'm hoping that you can help put me on the right track because we are in real need of help.

My brother was a 1st Lieutenant in the army from 1967 to 1969. He served a year's active duty in Vietnam and received an honorable discharge as well as a bronze star. He suffered a back injury for which he has drawn a monthly disability check since leaving the army. His injury is relatively minor and has not held him back from any jobs or most activities. He turned 66 in September and is drawing Social Security and has part A Medicare coverage. He thinks that his part B Medicare will begin Feb. 1st.

15 years ago he was diagnosed with diabetes for which he has taken insulin for several years now. He has high blood pressure and cholesterol. About 8 years ago he had to have a stint put in for his heart and he takes medication for heart also. 15 months ago he was found on the floor in his home looking beat up and unconscious. He was taken to Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio and stayed there about a week. He was unconscious for a day and a half. The doctors ran lots of tests and came up with stroke as a diagnosis though even that was not definitive due to all his injuries (broken ribs, cuts requiring stitches on his face and huge bruises all over). My brother still says that he has no memory of that event. He did receive physical, speech and occupational therapy for a time and while still moving a little slower seemed to be back to normal. A couple of days ago a friend he was talking to told him that he was slurring his words and needed to get checked out. He drove himself to the hospital ER where he was diagnosed with small stroke. Only his speech seems to be affected. He stayed 2 nights in the hospital and then drove himself home with a handful of prescriptions to get filled.

My brother has no prescription drug coverage and says these meds will cost $500 which he's going to put on his credit card. But I'm wondering if there are any programs or benefits for Vietnam vets to help defray some of these expenses. His main income now is Social Security and that's not a lot. I heard once that diabetes is now considered a disability and wondered if he might be able to increase his disability check because he's diabetic.

If you could just give me a place to start or a name of someone who can help us I'd really appreciate it. My brother lives in a suburb of San Antonio. His daughter and I live not too far away and can help him if we have a plan of action.

Thank you for any help you can give.

Reply:

The Vietnam veteran receives a host of benefits from the Veterans Administration...the VA. All Vietnam era veterans who served with "boots on the ground" in the country of Vietnam were exposed to a chemical...agent orange. Agent orange was used as a defoliant, a weed killer, to reduce the amount of jungle coverage that the enemy hid behind.

It has been discovered that agent orange causes certain health problems. One of the primary health problems is diabetes. The other health problem is heart disease.

It sounds to me as if he would be eligible for complete, no cost health care benefits from the VA. All medications the veteran needs are provided at no cost by VA.

Beyond total, no cost health care he is eligible for Veterans Disability Compensation. It's hard to predict just how "disabled" he will be by the VA ratings system but he may be eligible for cash monthly benefits that approach $3000.00 per month.

He must apply for all of these things. The application is simple but like all government paperwork, it can be frustrating due to delays. The sooner, the better. (He could have been drawing benefits for the diabetes for 15 years, had he applied.)

If you'll look here http://www.vawatchdog.org/How_To_File_A_Claim.html you can see that I have it all laid out for you. How to complete the application, where to mail it and just how the process works. Please read that page and then go on to study the rest of the data on my web site here http://www.vawatchdog.org

If he already receives a monthly disability check from the VA, he needs to go to the VA hospital and register as a patient. He will be screened, get appointments to see doctors, have all his medicines given to him and so on. Applying for these benefits is a Do It Yourself (DIY) project. He is much better off to do it himself. There are many reasons I caution you about this...too many to go into today. The VA will take his application for benefits in the mail, that is the best way to get this done.

Complete Mailbag