SGT. SHAFT: Widow of veteran exposed to Agent Orange makes claim

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Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My husband passed away on July 4, 2004. He was a Vietnam veteran exposed to Agent Orange. He was working at Toyota motor manufacturing, and in 1997, he began having stroke symptoms.

He was put on medical leave and sent to neurologists in Lexington, Ky. After test he was told he had bleeding on the brain. First they thought he had cavernous angioma. He got worse. After months of mini strokes, he continued to get worse. I insisted that he was seen at several hospitals and doctors (specialists), and they diagnosed him with primary cerebral vasculitis autoimmune disease.

He was put on cytoxan and a large dose of prednisone. He did fairly well until 2001. He became extremely ill with high fevers, chills and was hospitalized for six weeks.

Many doctors treated him and were not sure the problem. He could not get his blood and platelets to stay up even after transfusions. He was in the heart wing at Central Baptist. Finally, they let him come home so weak he could barely stand.

For two years he was in the doctor’s office and the hospital. In 2003, he became critical and was told he had Acute Myloid Leukemia (A.M.L.).

He went to Markey Cancer Center. Six weeks later, he was in remission. In September 2003, the process was started at Indianapolis University Hospital for stem-cell transplant. The first test they did on him was an echocardiogram. They came out and asked me to take him to a different hospital to have the test on the heart.

He had a huge myxoma in the heart, and the transplant was put on hold. Back to the University of Kentucky (U.K.) for open-heart bypass surgery to remove myxoma and also bypass surgery.

After a few weeks of healing from the surgery he went back to I.U.H.for the transplant, back to Markey Cancer center later on, and in June of 2004, we knew the transplant had failed. He went to U.K. in July with septic shock and passed away July 6, 2004.

Doctors said the myxoma caused the strokes. He had atrial fibrillation, strokes, vasculitis, myloeidysplasia, A.M.L., myxoma, coronary artery disease.

He filed a claim in 2003 for A.M.L. but was denied as it was not on the Agent Orange list.

I kept appealing, and I was awarded the non-service connected pension from 2004 till 2007. I had lost hope of compensation and then in September 2010, the VA sent me notification that I might be entitled to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (D.I.C.) through my husband’s leukemia, a new presumptive disease.

Then in May 2011, the appeal was denied, but I was informed that I could and should reapply as VA legislation and regulations change periodically due to new medical evidence. I got all medical records together on the heart and submitted it to the VA on Dec.13, 2011,

I was told at a toll-free number that I was awarded D.I.C. in December 2011, but no letter. Now for several months my service representative says he can’t get into my information. They say it is an appeal, and I don’t know when I will hear. I don’t know if they have paperwork on the heart condition, and they say my service representative will tell you and he says he can’t.

I am no better than anyone else, but if I could see a ray of hope it would help me.

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