- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Dan Barrett was through with the Vietnam War almost as soon as he managed his way past a taunting, spitting anti-war protester at the airport.

The war, however, wasn’t done with him.

The retired Evansville businessman has spent the better part of four decades trying to forget the horrors of combat, only to find himself fighting new battles with cancer and bureaucracy.

Barrett has received chemotherapy every four weeks since being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in September 2009 - a cancer he believes originated with his almost daily exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

“I can’t believe how patient Dan has been. I’ve learned a lot about dignity from him. It’s unbelievable,” Evansville Vietnam veteran Keith Weisheit told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1ox9nGw ).

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is paying to treat Barrett’s cancer - which has since spread into his lymphoid system and spine - and he receives monthly disability compensation for his war-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

Like many veterans, Barrett suppressed his feelings about the war for years and refused to acknowledge the emotional trauma it caused.

However, the VA has declined to recognize that Barrett’s cancer is linked to Agent Orange, denying him disability compensation for it.

Barrett, who lost his wife to breast cancer in November, is hopeful that recognition of his case might help other Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange whose illnesses have gone unrecognized by the VA.

The VA has a list of cancers and other health problems it presumes are diseases associated with Agent Orange or other herbicide exposure during military service. It even recognizes that certain birth defects in children of Vietnam and Korea veterans (including spina bifida) are linked to it.

Veterans and their survivors may be eligible for benefits for those diseases if their military service qualifies them.

Barrett’s cancer is not on the list.

“It’s hard to believe they can say it causes stomach cancer (soft tissue sarcomas) and cancer of the larynx and trachea but not the esophagus,” Barrett said.

However, in 2007 the VA ruled that the esophageal cancer death of another veteran, Thomas Schubert of Wisconsin, was related to Agent Orange exposure and it awarded his widow benefits.

In July 2009, just months before Barrett’s own diagnosis, former Democratic congressman Steve Kagen, then a Wisconsin representative, introduced a bill that would have added esophageal cancer to the list of presumptive illnesses, but it died in committee.

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