Veterans Benefits

If you haven't read my previous commentaries, I am attempting to get VA coverage for my brother, Jerome 'Jerry' Wertenberger, whom, we believe, contracted Hepatitis C from the jet injectors used when young men were vaccinated against various diseases before going to Vietnam.

Jerry has had 2 more strokes since my initial article and can no longer verbalize and/or write out his claim. He will be leaving the rehab facility shortly as his wife can no longer afford to keep him there. His first heart attack happened during his initial treatment for Hepatitis C using interferon and ribavirin. Since then, he has completed the Harvoni treatment and he is virus free.

Unfortunately, the effects from interferon go on.

In this most recent letter from the Veterans Administration, I have been asked to:

1. Read the regulations enclosed

2. Tell us about the events that led to your discharge, using the VA Form 21-4138

3. Send evidence to support your story

4. Tell us why you think your service was honorable

5. Tell us if you want to have a personal hearing.  Personal hearings are explained in the enclosed VA Form 21-789

I understand everything in the letter except for:

The military has said your service was not 'honorable." Therefore, we have to make a decision about your service. As long as we decide that your service was not "dishonorable," you will be eligible for VA benefits.

My sister-in-law read the statement as meaning he was not eligible. If I had not stopped her, the letter would have ended up in the garbage.

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It took me 2-3 reads to understand that the military was calling my brother's service not honorable, but it wasn't dishonorable either.

I think.

Or perhaps the sentence means that the military has said his discharge was not honorable, but since his service is not dishonorable, he is eligible for VA benefits.

Or maybe, because he received an undesirable discharge (which he did receive) he is eligible for VA benefits. You have to wonder if this sentence was structured in such a way so that most people would toss the letter. Think of the money the VA would save.

The discharge and the Veterans Administration

Next up are the events that surrounded his discharge which can be found here, and here, and here and here and here. He was sent home from Vietnam on a medical. He was experiencing severe paranoia, drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression. If you stick a human being in the dark, in the middle of the night, in a foreign country where you do not speak the language, alone, with a constant and sustaining threat to his or her life, you'd think the returning vet might be in need of help just on a general basis.

The fact that my brother escaped from not one but two different military medical facilities would give a clue as to the escalation of his fear in the presence of military personnel. The fact that he returned home to his place of residence before the war, would lead one to believe that this person did not want to run from his life, but from the military.

Veterans service

Jerry served one term in Vietnam honorably and when asked to serve another term, did so upon request. No one knew that along with the scars of war he would bring home another virus, one far more insidious than a drug addiction. Although I have said this repeatedly, it is imperative that we notify our physicians and hospitals to be aware of Hepatitis C and the Vietnam vet.

The Government must make funds available for our vets and their families to be tested for the virus and then downward to children and grandchildren. It can take years for the virus to show symptoms and many times it is too late to not infect wives and children. Having buried one family member and having had another nearly die from interferon therapy, it is time to put the facts on the table and for the military to admit to its role in the spreading of the Hepatitis C virus through the use of jet injectors.