WIS Learns More VA Regulations Treatment for Cancer

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KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) – The family of a Gulf War veteran who says he's running into road blocks getting help from the VA called WIS' Kara Gormley, and now she's heard from many News 10 viewers asking how they can help. And she's gotten more details on what regulations may be causing the problem.

"Do I feel let down? Yeah. Am I still proud to serve as a Marine? Of course," says James Holloway.

Holloway served in the Gulf War. He got out of the military in the early 90's now 38, he's dying of cancer. It was diagnosed over a year ago.

Holloway's experiencing memory loss and slurred speech. "It gets to a point where I don't know what I'm doing – or what's going on."

Holloway says he went to the VA seeking treatment and financial help. He says so far, he's filled out a lot of paperwork – but all he's got to show for it is an ID card.

     

The VA can't talk specifically about Holloway's case due to privacy issues. When WIS asked if we could speak with someone about veteran's benefits in general, no one would talk with us on camera.

"The vets that walk into our office – they are unfortunately at their last straw. They've tried to do this on their own for many years and they've finally realized, usually not the vet, but the wife, the child, somebody, you know, 'Dad, honey – you need help, you can't do this on your own,' and they come to us," says Bryan Kerouc, a representative of Disabled American Vets.

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It's Kerouc's job to fight for veteran's benefits, something he says he can't do if a veteran doesn't have proof his injury or illness stems from his military service. "The VA will not base a decision on what the veteran thinks, says or even swears to under oath at a hearing. We need to have the evidence that something happened to you on active duty and actually see it from the time frame of being on active duty."

As it turns out, lack of proof may be Holloway's vital mistake. It all has to do with a form, something called a 526. Kerouc says every vet needs to fill it out and get a physical before leaving the military, no matter what.

Kerouc advises, "Do not just rush through this and think, 'You know, I'm strong. I feel good. There's other guys out there that get legs blown off, all these problems, they need it more than me.' Don't think that way. Think of your family 10 to 20 years from now, what if we now find out 20 years from now there are conditions that were caused by the Persian Gulf, and I needed one urinalysis to prove you had that."

Holloway didn't fill out his 526. In fact, Holloway says back then, he wouldn't think about complaining to his commanders or going to sick bay.

As a Marine he was taught to tough it out. "If they see that you are some type of lingering, sick, lame and lazy, you get low evaluations and you don't get promoted."

Kerouc doesn't disagree, "It's worse than that in the military because you feel like you're going to be punished if you if you go to sick call cause everyone's going to say, 'What's wrong with you?' But in these days you need to go."

Holloway was only 17 when he signed up for the military. He says when he got out years later, "When you get out, you're so happy you got out of there, you're just glad you walked out with your life."

Kerouc understands, "They've been through a lot. Been to war, they've seen horrible things. 'I want to get home, I want to hug my wife, kiss the kids see mom and dad – hang out with the guys at the club. I really don't want to go through this process. Get me home.' It's kind of tunnel vision."

Kerouc has never talked to Holloway, never seen his history or paperwork, but Kerouc says without that 526 form, there's probably not much anyone can do for him.

Holloway's not willing to take "no" for an answer. His next appointment with the VA is in October. He says God willing, he intends to keep it, "As I explained to them, I'm not going to give up until I die because I'm going to keep signing paperwork."

If you'd like to help Holloway, the family has set up the James Holloway Fund at First Citizens Bank. People should be able to donate at any First Citizens Branch.

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