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Monday, January 30, 2017

Widows Continue To Fight For Veterans Benefits

It’s been said that the Vietnam War is the reason that Americans started losing faith in government, and it’s not hard to see why. The public was lied to repeatedly, and thousands of lives were lost as a result. Not surprisingly, the impacts of this controversial and costly war are still being felt. A recent story by the investigative news organization ProPublica shed light on an important, yet often overlooked impact of the war, the rise and struggle of the modern-day Vietnam widow.

The article tells the stories of women who have been widowed recently, but who argue the Vietnam War was the cause. The women are fighting for survivor benefits because they believe their husbands’ specific type of brain cancer, glioblastoma, was caused by exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant which was later revealed to be highly dangerous to humans as well as plants. The women in the article found each other via a Facebook support group, which made them realize their husband’s illnesses may not have been pure chance, so they are now appealing their late husbands’ cases through the VA benefits system.

Many of the women just want the government to recognize their husband’s sacrifice, but they may also be eligible for compensation. There are currently fourteen medical conditions linked to Agent Orange, and if a veteran with one of these conditions can prove he served in Vietnam, he is automatically eligible for VA benefits, and his spouse is eligible for survivor benefits after his death.

For diseases not on the list, the fight for benefits can be difficult. Most widows don’t know the specific details about their spouse’s service that would allow them to gather the evidence they need to prove a link between their late husband’s medical issues and their military service. And, unfortunately, because these are administrative cases, not court cases, the results in one case have no bearing on the results of other cases. Even when the facts in different cases are very similar to one another, some widows win their appeals and others do not.

As the article plainly illustrates, applying for VA benefits can be a very frustrating experience. The brave men and women who served our country, and their family members, deserve better.

 


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