Monday, June 6, 2011

VA ceases benefits for veteran suffering ailments linked to Agent Orange

The benefit checks from the Department of Veterans Affairs were a lifeline for Charles and Dolores Cooley, as critical to their financial health as the oxygen tube Charles wears is to his physical health.

But that lifeline was severed last year when the VA determined that awarding Cooley benefits for exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War had been an error.

Having their benefits cut off has set the Cooleys down a slope to financial ruin. She is 66; he is 67. They live in a double-wide trailer on a grassy lot in the Drifting Ridge subdivision off Durkeetown Road in Fort Edward.

Their income, from Social Security and his pension, is about $2,000 a month, but their bills often exceed that.

She has been drawing from a retirement account but that money will run out, probably by the end of the summer. Then, Dolores said, they'll have to sell the house.

"We would never be able to buy another home," she said. "I would most likely have to go back to Long Island and move in with one of my kids, which I'm not looking forward to that.

"I don't know what to tell you. Everyone in my family knows, we are givers, not takers. I'd give my last dollar to somebody. But this is owed to him, and he should have it."

Charles Cooley is a Vietnam veteran suffering from diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure. Most Vietnam veterans with these afflictions are presumed to have been poisoned by Agent Orange, a dioxin-laced herbicide used by American troops to defoliate jungle areas in Vietnam.


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