Off Topic Dad
I know this is way off topic; however I thought we should post this. Below is a letter my brother and I sent to the Veterans Administration. Our father was in the Special Forces and served multiple tours in Vietnam. The US has been in wars for decades now, and we do not know the total cost in terms of the lives of our veterans. The numbers are not just those lost in the field, but also those that come home and their families. For example, in our house, you knew to close the cabinets slowly (I closed them on my finger and then gently pulled my finger from behind the door) so the door does not make a bang sound, awakening or startling our dad. I thought this was normal until I saw the medical records when he went into the hospital.
I am submitting this claim for VA compensation on behalf of the family of Richard H. Quigley. Our dad submitted a claim for VA compensation on the 3rd of August 2005, file number <number omitted> and there was no resolution on his claim before his passing on the 21st of October 2005.
One, My father died of small cell lung cancer as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. My father told my brother and I of several occurrences where, when he was in Vietnam, planes would come over their location and spray Agent Orange on top of them. He would then have to climb through the foliage and set charges to clear the dead vegetation. The planes would come and spray again, the process continued until clearing the entire area around them. The first doctor, Dr.<name omitted>, at the Durham North Carolina VA discussed with my father and us that his cancer was related to his exposure to Agent Orange and noted the same in his medical record. Also enclosed in this claim is a copy of hand written notes from my father, wrote about the things he observed going on with himself since 1964 (his time in Vietnam). It is my firm opinion that my father never pursued this claim due to issues discussed in items two and three.
Two, it is obvious from a review of my father’s medical and service record that he suffered from post turmeric stress disorder. It is clearly noted and documented. However, this issue was insufficiently addressed, at least partially because my father’s belief that it would end his career in the Army. This belief no doubt was derived from training, in the Army of the 50s’ and 60s’, where recruits were trained to believe that the Army was the only thing that mattered and their devotion to it must be unquestionable and without fail. Even though he did not pursue treatment for this, the Army should have forced him to seek help. He was a good soldier, and followed orders. He never considered that he would be led astray or uncared for by his Army. However, since his job performance was only minimally affected, it was not a concern for the Army. This non-treatment of his PSTD only exacerbated the situation of his cancer and seeking treatment. The culmination of these two items took our father away from us long before the cancer ended his life.
Three, My father felt that there was no reason for attempting to file anything against the Army or VA because, after his service of 22 years, 6 months, and 12 days and winning several Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts, he was awarded 30% disability. This included, 20% for Traumatic Arthritis and 10% for Hemorrhoids. This documented PTSD, not appearing on his disability assessment is hard for us to understand. This coupled with the Reduction in Force (RIFT) that reduced him back to the enlisted ranks after a long distinguished service as a Army Officer and just prior to his having sufficient time to retire as a commissioned officer. The combination of these two items convinced my father that the Nation and Army, which he had given everything he had, betrayed him. This betrayal coupled with the non-treatment of his PSTD also made him not file for any of the other benefits to which he was entitled to, such as Social Security.
Even at the end, when being assessed by the system for his level of disability, and its relationship to his service, required a second doctor, in addition to the one who already worked for the VA. This required numerous appointments, conflicting with other appointments and emergency trips to the hospital. At one point, he was in the hospital, when he was to have an appointment with the VA assessment doctor for disability/compensation claim. However, the doctor would not come see him in his room, since he was already in the hospital. The doctor’s nurse stated that it was because they needed to run test to see if he had cancer. This would already be determined by the same test they were going to run by other VA doctors, which were treating his cancer.
In summation, there really is no way to monetarily compensation for the loss of our father, and the trials that have been endured as a result of his service to the Army and the United States. He gave his all, and at no point was a burden to the Army or the government. I know that the Army and VA owe him greatly for the way they have treated our father and for taking him away from us long before he should have been. Enclosed you will find a copy of his disability claim from October 1981, his hand written list of symptoms that started in 1964, his DD 214, a copy of the letters of award from the Army for his Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts, his previous claim for compensation associated with his exposure to Agent Orange causing his cancer.
I wonder how many other individuals like Richard H. Quigley are out there given the number and duration of wars the US has been fighting. The government did not do right by our father. We suspect this has not changed appreciably and more young folks will prematurely age and suffer from PTSD in silence. Their families will be robbed of a life with them even if they manage to come back from the war “in one piece”. I hope at least when it is found out; it is documented and not summarily ignored as in the case of our dad. We fervently hope the government does something more akin to appropriate rather than wait out a man that is dying after giving so much.