VA denies veteran disability benefits despite evidence of radiation exposure

VA denies veteran disability benefits despite evidence of radiation exposure
Published: Oct. 23, 2017 at 4:25 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 24, 2017 at 3:58 PM EDT
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HUNTERSVILLE, NC (WBTV) - Navy veteran Dan Parks is quick to tell you about his time in the service in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Parks was stationed at Naval Submarine Base New London, where he worked with ordinance. During his time at the base, Parks was also exposed to ionized radiation.

Parks' discharge paperwork from the Navy even includes at stamp saying he was being discharged, in part, due to the radiation exposure.

Flash forward decades later and Parks suffered throat cancer. He now has to plug a hole in his throat to talk; a side effect of the cancer.

Multiple doctors with the US Department of Veterans Affairs have written letters saying there is a better than ever chance that the cancer was caused by Parks' radiation exposure during his time in the Navy.

But the Veterans Benefits Administration has denied Parks' disability claim. The reason? They say there's no proof he was exposed to radiation in the Navy.

"If the VA won't accept their own doctors, where does a veteran turn?" Parks asked.

Parks first filed his disability claim in September 2014. It was denied this past September, three years after his claim was first filed.

Parks has appealed the decision but the VA said it will be another 18 months before his appeal is reviewed.

That's not good enough for Parks, who lives with the consequences of his service every day.

"It does make me mad but what can you do?" Parks said. "It's like talking to a rock when you try to talk with the VA."

Following the original publication of this article, the VA Benefits Administration provided the following statement:

"Per federal law, veterans seeking service-connection and/or disability compensation for radiation exposure must present to VA evidence documenting the exposure."

"Following a review of Mr. Park's military personnel records and information from the Navy, VA has no evidence showing Mr. Parks was exposed to any harmful chemicals or ionizing radiation while on active duty.  As such, we have no authority under the law to grant service-connection and/or disability compensation."

"We stand ready to review additional evidence regarding Mr. Park's claim if and when it becomes available."

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