Editor’s note: The following is a letter received at VA and shared with the author’s permission.

I have been a member of Rolling Thunder, the VFW and the VVA for the past several years after I decided to become engaged in Veteran organizations. This after not discussing any aspects of my military service, including Vietnam, for over 47 years.  My contact with the VA has been superficial until this last year.

Until then, my opinion of the VA was primarily based on word of mouth critiques from other Veterans in these organizations. It was almost always negative feedback especially when concerning benefits.  So much so that I declined to file for my own benefits for several years thinking it would not be a good use of my time. And besides, I was holding down a job and getting by just fine, at least up to about a year ago when I started to experience a significant loss of energy and began experiencing new heart issues on top of what I already had.

As luck would have it, a young Veteran service officer gave our VVA chapter a presentation on the services his team provided to Vets.  He was from a neighboring county Veterans Service Office.  I was smitten with his energy and genuine interest in helping us out.  This was back in January 2017.  His name is David Fry and he worked for Tim Westphal at the Arapahoe County Veteran Services here in Littleton, Colorado.

I made an appointment with him and we began the claims process, filing in February.  I was contacted by a VA contract group within 45 days about attending medical evaluations within the next few weeks.  The process was painless and the administration and medical employees were great. They were very caring and very respectful. I came to look forward to the evaluations.

I received my first notification from the Department of Veteran Affairs that I was approved for 70% disability soon after. The VA was still evaluating a new heart condition that was discovered during the medical testing and would provide an additional decision at a later date. That decision came in August.  I had been reclassified at 100% with special compensation.  The medical review team had discovered that I also was suffering from left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD). The cause being attributed to my exposure to herbicides in Vietnam while on active duty. The irony for me is that the LVSD was not in the original filing.  Nor had it ever been diagnosed by either of the two civilian cardiologists I was seeing at the time.

I owe a great debt to the VA as I am now able to retire from my existing job of 40 years and address a medical condition that would have, otherwise, gone untreated indefinitely. I am being provided a second chance to live out my days in a more meaningful way, something I would not be able to do had I continued to listen to the negative press about the VA and not paid attention to a young VSO who embraced his job and love for other Veterans.

It concerns me that there are other Vets out there, like I was, who are not taking full advantage of what their country has to offer because they are not getting the right information. My hope is that I can find a way to help you change that situation in some small way.

About the author: Mark Nickell is a Vietnam Veteran living in Colorado.

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Published on Jan. 11, 2018

Estimated reading time is 2.9 min.

Views to date: 107


  1. Johnnie M Carter January 12, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Everything I have read on the Veterans page appears to show VETS are being
    cared for as well as compensated for the sacrifices made for our GREAT NATION!!
    There are many VETS that have slipped through the cracks!! My husband(deceased),
    sister,nephew and I are among them.Why?? There is toooo much red tape to prevent
    you from getting the compensation entitled to you from NON VETS providers who are
    can care less about medical conditions acquired while serving this country.
    If there are regulations or procedures in place to prevent the red tape that is in
    existence,I will appreciate the information to assist US in being compensated.
    Hopefully,I will not be punished for expressing the diappointment that my family
    feels for such unfair treatment which has gone on for several years!!
    Enough said.

  2. Frank Eagan January 12, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    Hello! I am trying to find out exactly what benefits I am eligible to receive, & how I can start receiving them. I served in the Army for 7 months & 6 days, & received a General Discharge under Honorable Conditions, back in 1988. I don’t know where to go for help, or who I should talk to. I would greatly appreciate any & all help that you may be able to offer me. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter.
    Frank Eagan

  3. frank enfinger January 12, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    I’m glad that your got what you earned,i was told by va docters that I have ptsd and depression cause from assault ,been turn down and now in appeal been told maybe in 2019 they look at my appeal startd this in march 3 2015,also turn in my claim for my neck and back that started in 2011 still waiting on my appeal for that,i had two buddy letters that the vadid not even mention when they denied my appeal

  4. Thomas Rivet January 12, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Unfortunately, in this area the VA has made no strides or improvements at all, including all the hiring / firing / demotions etc. that occurred a couple years ago. Many are on waiting lists, even VietNam Vets like myself.

    When I applied for the new benefits, with a VA volunteer to help me with it, where I could receive pay for my time on the ground around Agent Orange and other gaseious killers released, was on a base in Thiland where we saw a lot of it in the air coming across from Cambodia, but I was denied in a very adversarial system designed to make me go away or die first. My doctor even provided the required diagnosis for the many diseases I have and that they were more likely than not from military duty because my family had no history of these several diseases I still suffer from.

    My VA rep couldn’t understand it either, essentially being told not to help me any further, and I gave up in disgust. That doesn’t mean I don’t hold a grudge though; I DO, and a strong one! Our gvt abandoned us in VNam and repeats that grievance for the last several years. The gvt only does what’s easy.

  5. John McCann January 12, 2018 at 10:15 am

    I think it is great to see someone is getting results on heart problems associated with herbicide exposure. I was told that unless it was on the list it would not be covered. I have eschemic heart problems and also had over a foot of my colon and a mass removed from my colon.I was told it was not covered as a disability issue for Agent Orange. I guess after I die they will change this negative attitude.

  6. Victor Victor January 11, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    When you have been kicked in the teeth, lied to for 47 out of 47 years, and had your evidence withheld with medical records withheld all your life, it becomes hard to trust or believe anything you read that puts the VA in a positive light. I don’t believe a single VA employee, especially those in supervisory positions, because they are responsible for so many suicides, and regularly rip off the government. St. Louis has proven to be one of the most corrupt of all VA institutions, and the beginning of miseries of thousands of families.
    There are lots of good people employed there, but they repeat what they are told to repeat or else. I don’t believe whistleblowers have one ounce of immunity and will be targeted at every opportunity. My own experience with St. Louis has been miserable and dishonest over many decades, even being lied to by VSOs in that same office, but i’m Going to save all that for YouTube.

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