{Empty title} | The Nation

I am Colonel Eugene B. Richardson, and I served in Vietnam in 1967-1968 during the Tet Offensive. I completed over twenty-seven years of distinguished active federal service both in the US Navy and the US Army, having received the Legion of Merit for my service and along with other awards, the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, for wounds received in the Vietnam War.

One year after leaving Vietnam I began having symptoms of what my treating neuromuscular neurologists say was a progressive polyneuropathy affecting my autonomic nervous system and the peripheral nerves of my entire body. These progressive symptoms went undiagnosed for over thirty-five years before diagnosis and treatment in April 2004 with gamma globulin that is now infused every twenty-one days to keep the symptoms and life-threatening autonomic issues from returning in full force.

I have been diagnosed with polyneuropathy by four board-certified neuromuscular neurologists whose decision is supported by published medical research from twenty-two board-certified neuromuscular neurologists. Yet the VA is allowed to use one retired doctor of internal medicine to deny the diagnosis and treatment by medical ignorance, lies and misstatements of fact.

This veteran's treating neuromuscular neurologist for over four years has certified that after carefully reviewing my medical record from active military duty and my medical records following retirement, my symptoms while on active duty are consistent with a toxic neuropathy and are more likely than not the beginning of a sub-acute toxic neuropathy from exposure to dioxin in Vietnam, which progressed to my current diagnosis and requirement for treatment.

Yet on June 2007 the Veterans Affairs continued to deny both my diagnosis and life-saving treatment, using one retired non-practicing doctor working as a neurologist in Miami who is only a board-certified doctor of internal medicine. This doctor, however, meets the VA standard of law by their criteria, so his actions are not illegal, just medically irresponsible.

Any medical doctor can check the medical literature and even the requirements of the Medicare system for documented symptomatic improvements from the use of gamma globulin on a patient with any immune-mediated polyneuropathy, yet this VA doctor in total ignorance dismissed the diagnosis because of his findings on his subjective examination. Why is a veteran required to gather and provide from his doctor medical evidence or medical documents because the VA is not using qualified doctors, especially when it comes to complex neurological illnesses?

This VA doctor never realized that he was looking at some subjective symptom improvements from the gamma globulin given by IV just seven days before I came to him. How does a veteran fight medical ignorance? The VA doctor even had to ignore all the objective tests from several of the treating neurologists, submitted with the veteran's record. The Medicare system even requires these improvements from gamma globulin before they will approve payment for IVIg treatment for the polyneuropathies. The medical research demands these improvements to confirm the diagnosis after a trial of gamma globulin. Yet this VA doctor's opinion is given preference over all of these treating and research doctors and the very requirements of Medicare.

This same VA doctor of internal medicine, while falsely claiming to have reviewed my medical record with me, in fact he only measured my files with his spread fingers, noting that "he did not have time to look at all of this." This doctor's statement to the VA, noted in their denial, is a false official statement that in any other circumstance would be prosecuted. But then it is the word of a senior career officer against this VA doctor who is living on the fees from the VA so that he is able to abuse veterans. Who will believe a veteran with a solid military record who is backed up by qualified neuromuscular neurologists?

This same doctor also noted that I was in a wheelchair and needed help with walking, then repeatedly claimed in the VA denial that I walked without assistance, an abusive and insulting claim repeated several times in the VA denials. This outright lie about and abuse of a disabled veteran is unforgivable. My severe disability and need for assistance in walking and also in breathing has been noted by the treating neurologists for well over eight years. This disability has been noted and confirmed by the Social Security Administration in their approval of disability and by two private disability companies. How is it that the VA is allowed to abuse disabled veterans while denying them help yet demand the veteran send in more documents that they do not read or use selectively to deny or delay? Why?

In August 2008, after working on my disability application for four years, exhausted and tortured by my disease, I discovered that the VA in Tampa had issued a Statement of Case in June 2007 that was never received by this veteran. Since my lawyer who is helping me was told by the VA that it was being released to me, he never double-checked and assumed that I had received it.

It was only in speaking to my lawyer in August of this year that I learned of the document, and he forwarded a copy to me. By this point the time had expired for me to respond to this thirty-five-page document of complex laws and medical statements of false facts by the VA. I have since sent a letter requesting that this Statement of Case be reissued with a current date and sent to me so that I can act and continue to a hearing in this mind-boggling abusive process established by the VA for disabled and extremely ill veterans. May God help our country and save our veterans from the abuse of those claiming to serve those who served in a world-class healthcare system. Please help us stop the VA abuse of veterans.