SPRING HILL, Fla. (WFLA) – A Spring Hill veteran suffering from an incurable cancer appears to have won his four year battle for V.A. benefits.
“We’re still in disbelief that that phone call happened,” said Air Force veteran Richard Mattmann.
Mattmann filed a claim in 2013, stating that his heart disease and multiple myeloma were caused by his exposure to toxic herbicides while serving in the military.
He contends the Department of Veterans Affairs stonewalled, then went silent on him. That changed last week when Target 8 got involved.
One day after a Target 8 report profiling Mattmann’s case, he got a call.
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“My wife and I both [said], ‘did we really get that phone call? Was it real?'”
It was the V.A. on the other end of the line. A Decision Review Officer notified Mattmann that she approved his claim.
“In the few last years, nobody has taken an active interest in helping me out, or the other veterans out, except for you,” Mattmann said.
Mattmann was just 20-years-old when the U.S. Air Force sent him to Andersen Air Force base in Guam, then on to U-Tapao Air Force base in Thailand.
He loaded bombs on B-52’S to be dropped on Vietnam. His job put him on or near the perimeter of the bases, where the military sprayed herbicides, including Agent Orange.
“What I have is incurable,” he explained.
The V.A.recognizes that certain cancers and health problems are presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides during military service. Veterans and their survivors may be eligible for benefits for these diseases.
Here are a list of the diseases and a link to the V.A. web page:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda P
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas
According to Mattmann, the V.A.’s medical treatment for his life-threatening illnesses has been excellent.
The benefits side of the V.A. is a different story. Mattmann, in 2013, applied for Agent Orange benefits. Stating that his job did not put Mattmann near base perimeters, the V.A. denied his claim.
Mattmann appealed and provided the V.A. with detailed documentation.
“All the information I sent them and actually physically showed them, from the photographs and maps, showed that I was in those areas,” he said.
After he filing his Notice of Disagreement in 2015 to appeal the decision, the V.A. went silent on him.
The V.A. admits that its appeals process is broken. It takes longer for the V.A. to process one appeal than America’s involvement in World War II.
Mattmann contacted Target 8, who sent an email to the V.A, which included his documentation. The V.A. acknowledged receiving the email and promised it would get the information in front of those who need to see it.
Later that evening, about 10 minutes before Target 8’s report about Mattmann aired, he received a call from his Congressman’s office. It notified him that there were now only about 6,000 cases in front of his.
“I was thinking that we’re looking at at least another year,” he said.
The day after Target 8’s report, the V.A. approved his claim.
“You guys are just wonderful,” Mattmann said. “We’re in your debt forever. Your work, you should be very proud of your accomplishments.”
If you have a problem that you think should be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1 800-338-0808.
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