By Marsha M. Brown
In July 2016, my husband of 46 years, (William S. ‘Billy’ Brown, Jr.) transitioned to Heaven. It was a monumental day in my life and that of our children and grandchildren and it changed us in different but in much the same ways. Like many GIG LINE readers, who have lost a spouse or someone so heart precious and dear, the impact felt has been immeasurable.
There is not a single day that I don’t thank the Lord for my blessings which are many; for the personal acknowledgements I have experienced that He hears my prayers and answers them accordingly…in His time…and as He determines best. And I can honestly say that I have never believed my heartfelt prayers were ignored or that they fell by the wayside.
The evening in February 2016 we were told that Billy’s diagnosis was Glioblastoma Multiform IV brain cancer, it was a bolt of lightning to my ears at first, then breathtaking. We had plans…lots of plans since he had retired; we were going to visit my brother and sister-in-law in West Palm Beach more often; drive over to the west coast and pontoon out to see his ‘manatees…we were going to live our simple life loving each other, our son & daughter and four beautiful grandchildren.
My husband had been carrying out his daily routines and responsibilities as usual, conducting the business of his part time job as usual with no indication anything so devastating was in the making. Just prior to the diagnosis he had experienced sporadic confusion…like not remembering the code to our car, the bank ATM numbers and his debit card code which was odd, however, otherwise everything seemed the same. The day he first told me he thought he needed to go see ‘Dr. Johnny’ about his memory, we both assumed it might be some Dementia or maybe even a little Alzheimers settling in (which was also a concern of course), then the very next morning when he made us each a cup of green tea, he put four tea bags in my one cup of hot water. It was then, I realized something was seriously wrong…the thing is, he did not seem to even notice it was three tea bags too many. I didn’t make a big deal about it to him, I just nonchalantly set the extra tea bags to the side while swallowing hard. That was when fear first struck me and the assumption of something really bad began setting in. From that point forward, it was only four months later in an evening in July and only days after our 48th Anniversary when he passed.
You all have read many excerpts over the years about our life together…about the joy he brought into my life and that of our children. You have heard before about his diagnosis but folks, this GIG LINE is to remind all U. S. veterans who served in Vietnam (and their spouses/family members) that if you are experiencing medical issues, and if you are not already registered within the V.A. system, to please consider making an appointment to be evaluated or re-evaluated. To be honest with you, if it had not been for Billy having taken the time to investigate his medical issues with the V.A. and it having been verified through blood work and x-rays etc. that it was a result of exposure to Agent Orange, I would have lost our home after his passing.
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You see, he had a small life insurance policy and our children had been doing what they could to help me but in my case his County retirement stopped at his passing as did my Social Security since his was higher of the two but I still had all the same bills. Is this a pity party? Am I looking for sympathy? Of course not! I’m just trying to reiterate that for veterans’ spouses, it can mean a lot to have that financial help…that your husband or wife generated as a result of his/her service. Please try to reconsider determination that you are or are not eligible to receive V.A. Disability Compensation if you have medical issues. Who would have thought that Billy’s Diabetes II and Neuropathy was a result of Agent Orange? And even well before the brain cancer was diagnosed.
I understand veteran’s pride; the desire to avoid dealing with the V.A. but trust me when I tell you that making sure that what you may have medically wrong with you could equate to a favorable determination and a monthly check that could financially help you through life and later your spouse if you leave this world first. There is an Agent Orange presumptive conditions list that you should research on www.VA.com/presumptivelist agent orange or you can obtain the info from Patty O’Sullivan, Dare County Veteran Service Officer (252) 475-5604 or request it by email to www.dcvac.com In talking to Patty just yesterday, I learned there had been several additions to the list worthy of notice…bladder cancer for one.
Due to COVID-19 Patty is not in the office daily, however, she is faithful about checking her voice messages and emails and she will follow up with you. Since she assumed the position a couple of years ago, she has worked to file claims in your behalf and follow through with the V.A. many times for the veterans she serves. She is compassionate about veterans getting everything they are entitled to or qualify for and she will leave no stone unturned to help those who seek her help. PLEASE, please do not wait. Disability is NOT a gift…it has already been paid for in advance through your service to our nation and the sacrifices you made. It is a means of acknowledgement that what you went through or are going through is important and remembered.
In addition, within this past four years, veterans now have the Mission Act (Choice Card) whereby a vet can seek medical help through a private doctor; the addition of Bladder CA as well as additional Parkinson symptoms and Hypothyroidism to the presumptive list; and the Blue Water Navy Act for Navy veterans who served on ships within 12 miles off South Vietnam inland waterway. Benefits for Navy veterans who served on ships, who were not “boots on ground” in Vietnam was never an option before…thank the Lord they are now subject to being helped as well!
I am the first to tell you I don’t know everything but Patty? She is a professional in every sense of the word…she’s caring and her mission is to help you if she can; of course the outcome determination is not hers to call. Her husband is a veteran as is her son and you all mean a lot to her…and folks, even if you have made prior application for benefits or Disability Compensation to the V.A. and were denied…try…try again! Amendments and adjustments to their criteria since that time might have changed and could make all the difference.
Until next time, stay healthy, safe, and happy; make sure you have your incredibly special DD-214 at hand and if you don’t, either apply online: www.va.gov/forms or contact Patty to help you. You deserve all that can be afforded you; you are our heroes in every sense of the word, and I thank our good Lord for you each and every day.
If you know a vet who could use some help, please let Patty or myself know because our local veteran organizations are ready, willing, and committed to help if possible. You can contact me at cell: (252) 202-2058 or email me: [email protected] because I would be honored to hear from you! I love you all. God bless you and your families. Stay tuned!