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Local vet gets help from Sen. Murray


The fight to get a Veteran’s Administration disability claim settled for a Coulee Dam man took action by U.S. Senator Patty Murray.

Daniel Johnson’s cancer showed up in February last year and was attributed to his contact with Agent Orange, while he was in the navy in Vietnam.

Johnson said contact with Agent Orange occurred after the cease fire while his ship was still in Vietnam, through the ship’s ventilation system and eventually the ship’s water. Johnson was on a large amphibious ship that transported marines and their equipment into battle.

While repeatedly applying for help with the V.A. all through 2011 and most of this year, he was repeatedly turned down.

It wasn’t until he had lost his job with the federal government, and faced bankruptcy, that he decided to seek political help.

On Nov. 30, just a few weeks ago, he picked up the phone and one of Senator Murray’s staff members was on the line telling him that the V.A. had reconsidered his application for disability and it had been approved. Murray chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and in 2011 helped block an amendment that would have made it impossible for veterans to get approved for help with Agent Orange-related medical expenses.

“I guess the government has sent a team out to Seattle to re-train the V.A. people in that office to handle claims better,” Johnson said.

Agent Orange was used in Vietnam, among other things, to eliminate foliage along river banks so the Viet Cong could not fire upon U.S. ships with impunity. The chemical killed foliage for large distances back from the river banks.

Johnson said his appeal process took 19 months and a lot of frustration before Senator Murray got involved.

Johnson lost about everything as his body nearly shut down with the effects of Agent Orange.

“If it hadn’t been for Indian Health Services that agreed to treat me, I would probably not be here today,” Johnson said last week.

Johnson, now 61, spent four years in the Navy, worked here on the dam, and worked in construction for a number of years.

“I got so I didn’t want to do anything, my energy was gone, and I didn’t know what was wrong,” Johnson confided. He didn’t know at the time that he was suffering from cancer.

Today, Johnson undergoes chemotherapy every two months, and is grateful that he pursued help from Sen. Murray’s office.

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