"Deny until they die": Some veterans say VA wrongly rejects claims for illnesses

Published by CATHERINE HERRIDGE, JESSICA KEGU


(Dave Metzler, CBS News)


Nearly two dozen veterans came forward after a CBS News story about children sickened at Camp Lejeune, describing a broken Veterans Affairs claims system. A CBS News investigation found doctors who lacked expertise in relevant medical fields and veterans who spent years in the appeals process.


The U.S. government acknowledges that from 1953 to 1987, nearly a million veterans and civilians were potentially exposed to dangerous chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In some areas, levels were 400 times what safety standards allowed.


Dave Metzler spent 34 months at Camp Lejeune in the late 1950s. He got out of the Marines as a sergeant in 1959, and a year later, he started having problems with his balance and stumbling — and then he lost his hearing, said his daughter, Patty Metzler.


A machine repairman at a GM plant in North Jackson, Ohio, Dave Metzler got too sick to work. His failing health was seen as a liability, she said.


"And I know that depressed him — I'm no longer the person to support my family," she said.


Dave Metzler filed a disability claim with the VA, arguing his neurological problems stemmed from his service at Camp Lejeune. If approved, the Metzlers would receive much-needed financial support.


He was denied in 2014 — and again in 2015.

"He did get depressed. He got angry," said Patty Metzler. "And he did attempt suicide once."


A little over a decade ago, veterans were first able to file disability claims related to the contaminated water , and the VA started using so-called "subject matter experts" in 2012 to review them. But the CBS News investigative team found some of those doctors lacked expertise in relevant medical fields.


Students at the Veterans Legal Services clinic at Yale Law School filed a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of Camp Lejeune veterans who sought more information on the doctors who reviewed claims....


Read full article on CBS News.

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