It is with great sorrow I announce the passing of Butch Long early Tuesday morning. He fought the good fight with VA but he succumbed to what we frequently chant- Delay, deny until we die. In the instant case, it is true. I took Butch all the way from his reopening in 2015 to the CAVC and lost due to my lack of knowledge on §3.156(c). It took years to synthesize every nuance of it. In the process, I “accidentally” forgot to include all the records we obtained from the 312th Air Evac Hospital at Chu Lai. Records that say Butch was still complaining about headaches 6 weeks after the concussion blast injuries. Neurologists generally agree that TBI symptoms resolve (if they’re ever going to) within 2 weeks of a concussion “event” be it a football injury or an MVA.
These heretofore lost records allowed us to use the AMA to our benefit and continue the claim in the supplemental claim mode. VA, of course, denied it and an HLR was even more bizarre. We filed the NOD to the Board with not one, but two IMOs proving, among other things, that bilateral field vision loss in a setting of only one eye impaired clearly demonstrated an organic brain injury. In conjunction with headaches and tinnitus originating at the same time, the field vision loss IMO was the crème de la crème needed to cement the deal.
Butch’s wife Barb will take over the claim via substitution so the VA delay/deny tactics will be to little avail. It saddens me to have to witness seven years of denials. Worse, it saddens me whenever I open an old claims file from the 60s-’70s and see the perfidy. Claims of now-dead Veterans were baldly gerrymandered into 0% even when the evidence was undebatable. It demonstrates the old adage that power corrupts. Give a group of three government raters (one being an M.D.) a claim for benefits for a combat Veteran and watch them denigrate the credibility, downplay the severity and lastly, eviscerate the thrust of the claim by diverting it into a completely different direction. You’re arguing for TBI and they’re saying you have partial deafness. You say your ears ring and they say Roger that but you don’t have TBI. You’re arguing for a perforated cornea (and the residuals of a traumatic cataract) and VA is saying it’s correctable to 20/40. Your eye is perpetually “blurry” with a “hole” in the middle but it’s 20/40. You have more retained metal in you than the exoskeleton of the Tin Man in Oz but you get 10% just for shits and grins. And this scenario was just Butch.
Butch lived hard, played GI Joe hard and had a good run. He raised four wonderful children and lived to see many of the grandkids. To be honest, at one time I figured I’d be the one to auger in first. Agent Orange took an immense toll on our bodies. As if that didn’t wreak havoc alone, Malaria and a host of other diseases like Hepatitis and jungle rot plagued us in the aftermath. Some of us have diseases that doctors really haven’t seen in decades. Liver flukes in the US are unheard of.
I owe Butch immense thanks for allowing me to represent him. He taught me more than just how to win his claims. I made it clear when he was alive that I’d be there for Barb. I consider that to be my prime directive now. I’m guessing the number of LZ Cork alumnae is now getting down to fewer than one hundred members. In another ten years, it’ll probably become the Last Man Standing Club.
I have the honor of representing certain groups of Vietnam Veterans. I have several of the Vietnam Dustoff Association crew members and their offspring. I somehow also have the honor of repping a bunch of maniac Lurps from F Co., 51st Infantry (Airborne). Somehow my name leaked out of someone’s drunken lips back in Memphis at a Lurp convention and it was all over. I assure you I do not advertise. When I say maniacs, I mean it. Every one of these fellows have about five ARCOms (with a V or two) a couple of Bronze Stars with Vs and about 10 Air Medals from all the combat insertions and hot LZ emergency egresses. A few have Silver Stars. PTSD among them is more common than tinnitus and flat feet. Many had multiple Purple Hearts and they still strapped on a Huey the next day and went back into the bush.
Butch’s daughter Carol cut me my FRAG orders on Butch in 2013. She admonished me not to promise anything I could not produce ( a Purple Heart) for him. She had been to about 3 or 4 VSOs who all promised her the moon and didn’t do squat. The medals and the CIB turned out to be the easy part. Even the TDIU and SMC S was easy but the §3.156(c) hump seemed insurmountable. In retrospect, I see why now. It’s simply waaaaay too much money for VA to ever go quietly into the night. A spouse with four dependents on top of a 60-70% rating from April 1970 to maturation with no kids in 2015 is a bridge too far in VAland. No matter they screwed this up horribly in 1970; they were not about to come clean and make it right now. Butch died while being ignored for six years. VA got their wish. The delay and deny tactic worked well.
Barb fortunately has his appeal already firmly ensconced at the BVA awaiting a win. Let us pray this comes to pass. Butch’s TDIU kicked in March 30, 2015. He had to live until March 29, 2025 (ten years) at midnight in order for Barb to get her DIC. Sadly, he didn’t make it to the finish line. As insurance, I’ve ordered an autopsy in search of anything that might be AO-related that was a contributory cause of death. At this point, we’re not sure but it appears he was having problems with his left leg similar to what caused him to have the right one amputated in 2017. Peripheral artery disease in the extremities is often an indicator if it permeates the whole body-including the coronary artery (IHD).
Most of you know my motto of Win or Die. Butch lived it. I am honored to pick up his flag and bear it for his surviving spouse. Any of you would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot. We are Family. As my fellow VA advocate Theresa Aldrich of Hadit.com fame espouses- Leave no one behind- especially not on a paper trail let alone a jungle trail.
I never had the pleasure of serving with Butch. Nevertheless, we shared a bond no others can. We served in Vietnam and that binds us more strongly than anything else in life…or death.