Several years ago, a group of four Vietnam-era veterans got together to create change for themselves and fellow veterans by tirelessly working to prove that there was a connection with their military service and Parkinson’s Disease, which they all shared. These four gentlemen, Chris Reid, MD, Alan Oates, Lorenzo Gonzalez, and Steve Fiscus, through their grass-roots organization, United States Military Veterans with Parkinsons, were able to impact the lives of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans and their families by fighting for a cause that they believed in when they were able to prove that exposure to Agent Orange directly resulted in their PD diagnosis. As a result of their non-stop work, Vietnam-era veterans exposed to herbicides no longer have to prove a connection between their Parkinson’s Disease and military service to be eligible to receive VA benefits. The power of advocacy at its best. More information about this outstanding organization can be found at: http://www.usmvp.org/index.html
Fast forward to war veterans from more recent combat zones, who have traumatic brain injury (TBI) as one of the major issues that they have to deal with on a daily basis. These veterans are experiencing the same fate that our Vietnam-era veterans did because of the barrier that keeps them from being able to claim VA benefits. Why? Because up to now, no connection had been established. The following statement is from a Parkinson’s Action Network Action Alert: “The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has issued a proposed rule to make it easier for veterans to receive health care and compensation for certain illnesses, including parkinsonism, dementia, and depression, which have been linked to traumatic brain injury (TBI). The proposed rule cites an Institute of Medicine report referencing three research studies supporting a connection between the development of parkinsonisms and traumatic brain injury.”
Our support is needed to submit comments in favor of the proposed rule. Many injured veterans have been coming back home for years and have not been able to receive the benefits that they deserve. The following is some information about Dan, a military veteran from West Virginia, whose wife is seeking support from the Parkinson’s Disease community. “Dan’s PD is a result of overexposure to RF radiation while in the Air Force in 1978. While on duty, he was radiated by another airman at a rate far exceeding the amount allowed to test animals. We have had a difficult time receiving benefits from the VA. If this rule is passed to a resolution, it could mean complete coverage for his care. I have tried to garner support for this resolution by asking people to comment in the proposed format. I feel this is so important, not just for Dan and our family, but other disabled vets waiting for VA benefits, a process which takes years (for some reason). I am aware of scientific experimentation performed to discover the effects of radiation and its links to Parkinson’s Disease. Dan’s case is unique in that no other person, to our knowledge, has ever experienced this degree of radiation directly to the brain.”
February 8th is the filing deadline. Comments can be made at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=VA-2012-VBA-0029-0012
Our U.S military veterans give so much of themselves without counting the cost. Military families are the reason that our country can have the freedom we enjoy on a daily basis. One of my nephews served during the initial military push into Iraq. He is now out of the military, while another nephew is finishing up his second deployment and should be back home within a few weeks. They have made me a proud uncle because of their service.
These military veterans gave their best to protect us, and they deserve our best when it comes to making sure our voice is heard so that they receive the benefits that they need and deserve.