READ THE STORY
Each time, even as he found additional doctors to vouch for the link between his cancer and his service, the VA rejected Eller’s claim, arguing there was no proof.
Alan Eller has spent more than a decade trying to convince the Department of Veterans Affairs that his bladder cancer was the result of exposure to Agent Orange almost 50 years ago in Vietnam.
The Army vet has filed three claims with the agency, most recently in 2014, since a doctor told him the cancer was likely tied to the toxic herbicide.
The VA has no legal obligation to do this and has previously declined to cover other conditions despite research supporting a connection. But if it does this time, the shift could mean thousands of dollars a year for some vets, and even more for those like Eller, who filed claims years ago. In such cases, the agency is required to pay disability benefits retroactively, dating back to the day a veteran first applied.
Eller, a retired welder from Indiana, could receive up to 13 years of back payments. Depending on how severe the VA rated his disability, that lump sum could reach six figures.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Eller, 69, who recalled nights in Vietnam spent sleeping in shallow tidal water that he believes was doused with Agent Orange. “I don’t have a lot of confidence in the VA.”