Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Government waits for proof - sometimes for decades - before caring for sick veterans

Jim Ogden likes to spend time in his basement among the memorabilia of his career working with helicopters in hot spots around the world. Shortly after his last stint of service as a civilian helicopter mechanic in Iraq, Ogden became blind. Without a way to prove that his blindness is related to his military service, he isn't eligible for veteran's benefits. (Trent Nelson / The Salt Lake Tribune)

Sickened by Service: What doesn't kill you

The VA requires former service members to prove an illness was caused by military service.

By Matthew D. LaPlante

The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 01/16/2010 05:34:24 PM MST

Editor's note: First in a three-part series.

In Vietnam, Jim Ogden flew through clouds of Agent Orange. In Desert Storm, he hovered past burning oil fields. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, he worked near a thick black plume of burning plastic, metals, chemicals and medical waste.

Along the way he took injection after injection and swallowed pill after pill. He breathed in herbicides and pesticides. And he never questioned whether all of those drugs, toxins and poisons might someday do him harm.

Not until he lost his eyesight.

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