[sixties-l] Viet Vet Needs Help

From: June Cook (Earthmother) (research@alaska.net)
Date: Sat Jul 07 2001 - 18:46:30 EDT

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    Have lurked here for years, but now need help. I know there are many activists in this group and someone may be able to point me in the right direction. My husband Duane was in Army 1965-68. In '66 he was in
    Laos and had bunker collapse on him (direct rocket hit). Fractured skull, totally destroyed his right inner ear, caused neurological damage, and caused >50% loss of hearing in left ear. Officially, the U.S. was
    "not" in Laos at that time, so he came In Country on TWA Around the World Flight Number One to Thailand, where his passport was confiscated and he was issued a visa. His MOS was Tropospheric Scatter
    Communications (26L20), and his group would go into Laos, Cambodia, and around Thailand in support of covert/special ops forces, passing coded traffic and then getting out as fast as possible, usually within 12
    hours. His MOS and supposed location (Thailand) did not qualify him for combat pay at that time. When he was hit, he was treated at a field hospital ("they sprayed with antibiotic spray, slapped on a dressing,
    and sent us back out.") The wound became severely infected and within 24 hours his head looked like a pumpkin, so they medivaced him to Clark AFB hospital in the Philippines. There he spent several days, even
    seeing the Bob Hope show before being shipped back to his unit. He got out of Army in '68 and in '72 was having so much trouble with ear infections and dizziness that he went to PaloAlto VA hospital, where they
    did 3 surgeries in 2 years ... the first 2 to reconstruct the inner ear (both failures) and the third surgery to close the eardrum, which had become detached. PaloAlto wrote up the surgeries as due to a head
    injury in Vietnam (since records never referred to Laos at that time). Any injuries incurred in countries where the U.S. was "not" were usually written up as vehicle accidents or some such.

    Our problem now is that he has had the SAME claim in for disability with the VA since 1972. With the help of our state senator, the case was finally forced to a conclusion this week (only took 29 years ... had
    never been denied ... they kept "losing" his records! We have had to reconstruct his records ourselves each time.). His dizziness has progressed to the point where he cannot drive and has difficulty even
    walking. He suffers from severe migraines. He retired early from his job with the state of Alaska last year to take care of me ... I have had 3 years of chemotherapy (failed) and that is one reason why he
    started really pushing for a closure on the VA claim. Yesterday we received a letter of denial from the VA. They have not added one page to his file that we have reconstructed five times over the past 29 years.
    Our main problem is that we cannot find the location of the medical records from Clark AFB. We can refute all the reasons they have stated in the denial letter except one ... and for that the medical records
    from Clark are essential. No one seems to know where they were stored when they closed the base. To give you an idea how ludicrous the denial is ... one of the reasons they state is that "the veteran has no
    record of any Vietnam service medals". I'm sure most of you know that you cannot even walk in the door of a VA facility without your DD214. Duane's DD214 lists several Vietnam medals. It would list a purple
    heart also except that when he left the Army, they were sworn never to reveal that they had been in "other" countries, so Duane felt he was being patriotic by not claiming a purple heart for being blown apart
    in Laos. His other Vietnam medals are there however. He was in Vietnam for Tet, too.

    My plea to the group is this: does anyone out there have any idea where we might find the medical records from Clark AFB? We have tried National Archives, NSA (they have many records still, but do not keep
    medical records for this very reason), Army Archivist, and Library of Congress. Last night I found a paper in Duane's file that states that the National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records) in
    St Louis, Missouri LENT (not copied) all of Duane's records to the Anchorage office of the VA in 1983. After that they went into a black hole. It is interesting that the originals were sent to Anchorage, and
    not copies. We know from the letter of denial that the Anchorage office and the judging board (supposedly in Salt Lake City) could not possibly have read the records that we DID send them, because much of what
    they say is already refuted in the records that we have repeatedly sent them.

    Two things really, really hurt about all this. One ... we have discovered in trying to find more documentation for our records that there are literally hundreds of Vietnam vets out there just like us ... still
    waiting for honestly due compensation. I have been writing to one vet's wife in Kentucky whose husband has had seven surgeries since January. The VA has verified that the man has shrapnel throughout his body
    ... however all they have been able to get for his "records" are the letter sending him In Country and his discharge papers from the service. His official MOS was motor pool, but he worked covert ops in all
    those countries where the U.S. was "not". Therefore, the VA will not pay for his medical needs and will not award him disability. The second thing that hurts is that we know someone intimately (a relative) who
    is 37 years old, was never in combat, got drunk one night, got in fight, fell in ditch, and broke his leg. Complications set in, and because he was in the Army at the time, he is collecting full disability.
    That rankles.

    I wish I could get this to the attention of the media. Far too many men and women are still fighting the Vietnam War ... with the VA. However, right now I would be happy just getting needed medical records. We
    need medicine and food. Then I will turn activist for whatever time I have left. Thank you.

    June Cook (Mrs. Duane)
    (907) 490-2851

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