Matthew Burnett's Story
CALLING ALL MEDIA

To whom it may concern,

My name is Allyson Burnett and I am writing on behalf of my father, Matthew. He is a gulf war Navy veteran and now terminally ill due to chemicals he was exposed to during his service. He has been battling the VA now for almost eight years trying to get service connection. It now seems that, after getting in touch with Secretary Shinseki to seek help with the matter, his claim has been patently denied by appeals management. It is out of their jurisdiction to deny his claim, especially after the judge that heard the case wrote a decision which stated “I find no evidence on which to base a denial”. That being said; the law which governs VA policy specifically states “in the absence of contradictory evidentiary information, the Veterans Administration is bound to find on behalf of the service member.” Having been remanded to the appeals management center for “further development”, it was not the mission of AMC to “approve or deny” his claim, only to further develop and prepare his case for the ratings board. It seems odd to me that after naming names to Secretary Shinseki himself, my father’s case was almost immediately denied after having sat dormant at AMC for nearly two years. Part of the dormancy is AMC’s ineptitude to accomplish their own mission goals. For instance, for over a year they have been asking for his military files from the Department of the Navy. AMC has stated after multiple queries that said records are “unavailable for review”. However, with a single phone call to NPRC records custodians, my father was told that the chain of custody showed those records already at AMC. My father finds it more than coincidental, even retaliatory, that these actions took place so quickly after contact from the Secretary’s office. To date, my father has provided scientific evidence that links the chemical use to his illness. He has also provided medical evidence, sworn affidavits provided by service members who had first hand knowledge of his use of the chemicals, and case studies and reports from both CDC and NIOSH which show the adverse health effects from the use of those chemicals. He has even provided a medical opinion from one of the VA’s own doctors linking his condition to his service, though it was apparently not written in plain enough English for the people AMC. How is it that after nearly eight years and with more than enough evidence to rule the claim in my father’s favor, the people at AMC are still sitting on their thumbs trying to deny him what he is owed? How is it that after ten years in the service, my father can be treated like a leper? I will tell you first hand that my father is, without a shred of doubt, the hardest working and most honest person I have ever known. He is not simply seeking compensation out of laziness or lack of wanting to work. My father used to THRIVE on work, and now he can barely even walk. He suffers from scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and reynauds and is considered terminally ill at only 47 years of age. He recently added amputee to his list after having two fingers removed due to complications of RA. I am 23 years old and have dedicated my time to taking care of my father since he fell ill when I was in high school. I did not get to attend college, nor did I even get to finish high school. I will never get to earn a degree or work a “real job” because all of my time and attention is focused on taking care of my father. Do you know what it feels like knowing your father won’t be there to walk you down the aisle on your wedding day? What it’s like knowing that the person you love most in this world won’t get to see you succeed and grow as a person? I do, and it’s heartbreaking. This situation has put a great strain on the personal lives of everyone in this family. I watch my father fade away in front of me every single day, trying to come to terms with how I’m going to survive when he is gone. I watch the man that used to stand so tall and proud sink into depression before my very eyes. This battle with a very corrupt VA has gone on for too long. The stress of this fight makes my father’s health condition worsen which each letter and phone call from them. I’d like to make it very clear that I am not just seeking justice for my father, but for ALL veterans that are in the same boat, so to speak. It is so disheartening to know that government is turning their backs on the people that fought for the freedom of this country, on the men and women that risked their lives so we could live in a safe and somewhat peaceful environment. It is NOT ok to string their cases along without resolution just waiting for them to pass away so the VA never has to take responsibility for what they’ve done. MY FATHER IS DYING AND I DO NOT APPRECIATE SUCH HEARTLESS AND DISTASTEFUL BEHAVIOR FROM THOSE THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SETTING AN EXAMPLE. I do not appreciate the cold and callous attitudes of those that work for the VA, nor do I appreciate the fact that the stress from trying to get this case handled is KILLING my father. He no longer has the strength to fight this battle himself, and I am more than happy to take it on. I will not stop until my father’s story is heard and he gets the justice he so rightfully deserves. AMC has had more than enough time and been given more than enough proof and evidence to rule my father’s case in his favor. At this point, after their retaliatory actions, I feel that I have no choice than to expose this story and the VA’s corruption to the media. Especially after President Obama made such a push for change, promising help for veterans everywhere. The veterans aren’t getting any help. They are left to die because the VA cannot seem to stand up and do what is right. We have sat in the dark and kept our mouths shut long enough and it is time that these stories see the light of day. It only takes ONE person from the media to help set things straight and make a difference in thousands of veteran’s lives.

Sincerely,

Allyson N. Burnett

IMPORTANT, PLEASE JOIN THE FIGHT!

My previous entry on helping my Dad in his battle with Veteran’s Affairs is now more important than ever.

Today, my father received yet another letter from the VA stating that his case was about to be reviewed and requesting MORE information. All the evidence they need has already been sent to them countless times. They are now asking for letters from his doctors specifically stating that the chemicals he worked with caused his diseases. They have obtained all medical records that state, though apparently not in plain enough english, that my father’s exposure to trichloroethylene and PD-680(perchlor) are cause for his diseases.

After writing an email to the secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, this letter mysteriously appeared and a woman at the office of appeals management told my father, with an attitude, that “the letter is basically a denial of your claim”.

Eight years of fighting is more than enough, and it is time that my father’s case is handled properly and WITHOUT RETALIATION FOR SPEAKING UP FOR HIMSELF. It is time for the VA to do what is right, and denying his claim because he has spoken up for himself is NOT right. Are the people working for appeals management in first grade? No? Then they shouldn’t be basing decisions on the fact that my father is trying to get his case solved after eight years of the same battle.

I need everyone to copy/paste the letter below and send it to the email address listed. Please make sure the subject of your email is simply “Matthew Burnett”. Please, take one minute of your busy internet schedule to send this email. If enough people send the email, perhaps these people will get the point that we are not giving up and we are no longer going to be remain quiet.It does not cost money, it is not spam. This is a fight that I need help fighting, that my terminally ill father needs help fighting.

COPY PASTE THIS INTO EMAIL:

Growing up, my Dad was my own personal Superman. He worked constantly to give us everything we could possibly want or need. He took in my mother’s son as if he were his own, he married my mother and they created me.

For ten years, my father was a nuclear weapons specialist in the Navy. He served this country with courage and pride. He is a Gulf War veteran. If you ask if he had known he would get sick due to his work in the Navy, he will tell you that he wouldn’t go back and change things. He is an honest and hard working man, so you can understand how being disabled would be devastating to him.

At only 47 years old, my father is considered terminally ill. He suffers from lupus, scleroderma, raynauds and rheumatoid arthritis. He recently added amputee to that list after having two finger tips removed due to complications of RA. How did he get sick? During his years in the service my father worked with chemicals that were, and still are, known carcinogens. These chemicals can actually mutate your DNA and make you ill years after being exposed to them. The use of these chemicals were never monitored. My father had no idea that working with these chemicals would leave him crippled because he was simply doing his job.

For the past eight years, my father has been fighting a losing battle with Veteran’s Affairs. After denying his claim for service connected disability after giving him the run around for several years, my father waited several more years for an appeals hearing. They denied his initial claim due to “lack of evidence that said chemicals could cause such harm”. It’s funny to me that the government is so powerful yet so clueless. All the evidence one could possibly need is right here on the internet. My father gave them every last piece of information they could possibly need. He got congressmen and senators involved, and still no one would hear his voice. Almost a year ago, he was told that his case was going to the final step: the ratings board. Months later, he received a call saying the file had been left on someone’s desk and forgotten about. Then another call, stating the right people hadn’t been handling it and it had to be sent elsewhere. Then another call saying they lost his information. And another call saying it was going to the board. Every time he gets a call from the person handling his case, it’s another excuse. Why? Because legally, they can no longer claim that they don’t have sufficient evidence.

The VA is waiting for my father to pass away so they can close the claim without ever paying him a cent.

At this point, finding the case in his favor would cost the VA EIGHT YEARS of back pay upfront and a monthly check every month after that. I can see how that might hurt their already aching pockets, but I have no sympathy.

It makes me sick that my father, the most honest man I know, has to spend the time he has left worrying and stressing over something that should’ve been handled years ago. It upsets me that lawyers and the media are so terrified of taking on the VA. Issues like this get no media attention because they actually matter. The media would rather distract you with pointless wars we shouldn’t be fighting and fluff pieces on puppies, kittens and rainbows. These are the issues and the voices that should be heard. Why? Because my father is one of thousands upon thousands of people to deal with this. There are countless other disabled veterans like him and families like ours that are fighting the same battle.

I’m not shutting up until my father’s case is ruled in his favor. And even then, I’m going to fight for veterans just like him until the VA stands up and does the right thing for every last one of them. I may only be one person, but I’ve got a lot of friends and a very loud mouth. Not only that, I’ve got the one thing that this country’s government is sorely lacking; HEART. I will fight until my father’s story is heard and I will fight to make the stories of others heard. I am one person, but my voice WILL be heard.

I want this story re-posted until it goes viral. I want each and every one of you to understand that this is something worth fighting for and to stand up, educate yourselves and speak up for the people like my father that are left to die every day. These people fought for our freedom, for our lives. They gave up their own lives to ensure we could live ours, and it’s NOT acceptable to leave them in poverty and despair, to leave them in the dark. If there’s one thing I know the internet generation is capable of, it’s stirring things up. Post this on your tumblr, your myspace, link it from Twitter, send the link to every last news station you can until SOMEONE stands up and does the right thing. I promise, it feels good to do the right thing and fight for the people that don’t have the strength to fight for themselves.

Know someone currently in the service? What do you think is going to happen to them in ten years when they get sick and the VA refuses to take responsibility? If their illness isn’t on a sheet of paper in front of them, they will ignore it. It’s funny to me that so many people claim to “support our troops” but refuse to stand behind our veterans. One day a year isn’t enough for the hell they’ve been through. Supporting the troops STARTS with supporting the veterans.

Sincerely,

Allyson N. Burnett

You can substitute my name with yours, or leave my name on there.

Here is the email address you will need to send it to.

eric.shinseki@va.gov


Thank you to each and every one of you that helps by sending out this email. My father would also like to thank you for your time and help.