(WFLA) – He served his country and is paying the ultimate price, but before former Navy Captain Walter Miner asks the V.A. for help, he asks that his crew be taken care of first.
Capt. Miner is one of thousands of veterans facing death at the hands of Agent Orange.
Their stories cultivate both commiseration and condemnation. Following a series of reports by Target 8, senior investigator Florida Congressman Dennis Ross requested a meeting with the Air Force to inquire about the use of Agent Orange on Guam.
The military told Ross it did not use the cancer-causing defoliant outside of Vietnam or Thailand, but evidence that it did keeps mounting, veteran by veteran.
Walter Miner spent 28 years in the Navy as a doctor.
He was stationed in Guam, then later in Vietnam.
While Marine and Army units with which he worked fought the enemy, Miner put their health first, fighting diseases to which they were exposed and contracted.
“Malaria was a huge one, but we had a big problem with dengue and potentially big problem with plague,” he remembered.
His time in Vietnam exposed him the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. The now 85-year-old Walter Miner is paying dearly for his service to America.
“I have stage four metastatic prostate cancer, incurable,” he said. “I have stage one bladder cancer.”
He also suffers from heart disease. All of those conditions are presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure.
“It is almost an unique toxin and it’s a very, very bad one. There is no safe dose,” Miner explained.
Several weeks ago, when Air Force veteran Leroy Foster told Target 8 that he personally sprayed thousands of gallons of Agent Orange on Guam, Miner learned he’d been exposed there also.
The V.A. routinely denies Agent Orange benefits to veterans who served there.
Our reports prompted Congressman Dennis Ross to demand answers from the Air Force.
“It’s turned into an adversarial process where the V.A. is saying that you’re guilty until proven innocent. That’s the wrong standard there, which is why we need these presumptions, presumptions that we have in the Blue Water Navy bill presumptions that we’ll have in the Guam bill. Presumptions in favor of these people who raised their right hand in order to give their life in the defense of this country,” Ross said.
His service in Vietnam alone makes Miner eligible for Agent Orange benefits. But, as he did while in the Navy, he is putting the welfare of his troops before his own.
“Almost everyone that I know that’s applied for them has been turned down,” Miner said. “And as I said before, I would much rather have my enlisted crew get them than me.”
Ross wants more documentation from the Department of Defense. He wants to know what chemicals were used during the Vietnam era.
He vows if there is a cover up he will get to the bottom of it.
A 2004 report to Dow Chemical investors warns “soldiers stationed on Guam who handled Agent Orange are becoming ill and symptoms of dioxin poisoning are evident in the general population.”
The military has not offered an explanation about that report.
If you have a problem you think needs to be investigated, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.