Steven J. Williams is virtually on his death bed and on oxygen 24/7. His friends and loved-ones don’t know if he’ll make it to his 78th birthday in June 2022.
In December 2020, Steven went to the kitchen still tethered to his oxygen machine to make a sandwich. He started to feel dizzy. Even though he was on oxygen, it wasn’t enough. Steve dropped his tray and scurried back to his bed. Desperate to get back before passing out, he wasn’t paying attention and hooked his foot on the leg of his bed sailing headfirst into his nightstand.
He stayed on the floor for hours until his roommate got up, saying “Hey Steve, are you ready for some coffee?” There he was, dazed on the floor next to his bed with a sundry of things that were once on his night stand.
Steven suffered a broken his leg and several contusions from the fall. Doctors ordered Steve into an in-home hospice-care situation thinking he only had about a month or so to live. Steve can no longer stand on his own and at six feet tall, weighs only 114 lbs.
There’s no mistake that he dying. Caregivers check him constantly because he’s a strong candidate for bed sores. He became incontinent and medical personnel had to insert a catheter. His quality of life continued to spiral downward.
Steve Williams joined the Navy in 1965 and reported for duty aboard the Navy Destroyer, USS McKean as a hospital corpsman assistant. He was so good at his job, the Navy sent Steven to corpsman school in San Diego and he came back aboard the McKean to take over as corpsman for the ship.
The USS McKean’s crew were decorated for several actions including the time when Vietcong guerillas were approaching a small village near the coast to murder every inhabitant after hearing they were helping American forces. The McKean’s captain was asked if he could provide any assistance.
The captain motored gently towards shore under the cloak of night. In a brilliant maneuver, he dropped anchor as he neared the shore so if the ship ran aground, he could use the anchor wench to pull the ship back out again.
All night long, the USS McKean opened fire with her deck gun on enemy positions being radioed in.
Relentless shelling of enemy positions during the night kept the enemy back until a rescue contingent from U.S. forces could get there to protect the village inhabitants.
AGENT ORANGE EXPOSURE
The military finally admitted that horrendous health maladies in servicemen and the Vietnamese civilians were caused by Operation Ranch Hand which was the spraying of the Vietnamese jungles with the defoliant Agent Orange.
By April 1993, the Department of Veterans Affairs had compensated only 486 victims, although it had received disability claims from 39,419 soldiers who had been exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.
It was the way the VA said “Thank you for your service” to thousands of sailors and soldiers affected by the deadly defoliant that was killing them with a slow protracted death.
According to one estimate, the U.S. dropped 475,500 gallons of Agent Orange in Laos and 40,900 in Cambodia alone, not to mention the millions of gallons sprayed over Vietnam itself.
In 1991, Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act, giving the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to declare certain conditions “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin, making these veterans who served in Vietnam and adjacent countries eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions.
Since the government refused to acknowledge they had secretly been fighting the war in Laos and Cambodia, they would deny benefits to Vietnam veterans to keep that fact secret.
For many years after the war, the government of the United States let American veterans die off one by one without medical help for political reasons.
In the early 70’s, some pencil neck in the Veterans Administration decided they could save millions of dollars if they denied benefits to naval personnel claiming exposure to Agent Orange.
The rationale for the denial was because naval personnel were not “in-country” under the jungle foliage being sprayed with Agent Orange. The assumption was wrong. Thousands of naval personnel were indeed being exposed to Agent Orange.
For decades, naval personnel were dying left and right from cancers associated with Agent Orange and were denied benefits from the VA. Their policy was to simply let thousands of veterans suffer so the VA could save some money.
Former Navy Commander John B. Wells and his nonprofit organization (https://www.militaryveteransadvocacy.org/) drafted up a Bill called the Navy Blue Water Act, which included naval personnel operating along the coast and on inland waterways.
Even though the Blue Water Navy Act unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives, the VA Secretary sent his mouthpiece to the Senate to beg the senators not to support the Bill.
Consequently, the Bill was delayed from becoming law and more veterans died without any medical help from the VA. Eventually, the Bill was voted on again and ultimately became law.
It took fifty (50) long years before Navy vets would receive the medical help from the VA they desperately needed. Some suffered from Agent Orange related maladies for decades.
Even though Steven Williams was in that “Blue Water Navy” group protected under the law, his claims have been repeatedly denied. The VA sent Steven Williams a notice saying he was Blue Water Navy eligible, but when he submitted his claim, it was denied.
HOW WAS HE EXPOSED?
Among it’s other wartime duties, the USS McKean was continually refueling helicopters that were spraying the jungles of Vietnam with Agent Orange. The Navy knows it to be true.
As the helicopter hovered over the ship to raise up fuel lines, Agent Orange was dripping all over the ship. Agent Orange got into the air and water systems of the ship and many of the crew got sick from their exposure.
After the Vietnam War, the USS McKean was leased to the Australian Navy, and to no one’s surprise at the Pentagon, Australian sailors began to get sick, ostensibly from Agent Orange.
The Australian Navy quickly concluded, we don’t want this piece-of-crap ship, take it back. The American Navy, looking for another sucker, sold the USS McKean to the Turks who cut it all up into scrap metal. No one knows how many of the Turks got sick and/or died from their exposure to Agent Orange, thank you Dow Chemical Corporation.
CLAIMS CONTINUALLY DENIED
Steven has tried repeatedly to get some help from the VA. Being bedridden day and night comes with a very high price, physically, mentally and financially. Medi-Care stepped in to help but there were costs that were not covered.
Steven Williams currently has a disability rating from the VA at 60% for injuries to his back while aboard ship, but the VA has thus far refused to raise Steve’s disability rating for his exposure to Agent Orange.
This presumptive conditions list used to include only those who served boots on the ground or within the inland waterways of Vietnam, but now allegedly includes Blue Water veterans who served in the US Navy ships that were in open waters within the 12-mile radius of the coastline of Vietnam.
Steven Williams was on the USS McKean when it literally shoved its bow on the shore of Vietnam to shell enemy positions. There is no question that Steven and his shipmates were within the 12 mile radius of Vietnam’s coast line.
At one time, Steven Williams was ailing so badly, his father drove him several hundred miles to have 24 carcinoid cancers removed from his intestinal tract along with 4 feet of small intestine. Yet, the VA still refuses to give Steven benefits based on the presumption that he had been exposed to Agent Orange.
Steven’s lung cancer has been attributed by the VA to his smoking habit earlier in life and not Agent Orange.
Steven’s lung cancer resulted in the removal of half of his right lung. While the cancer in his lung could have been as a result of smoking cigarettes, Steven Williams believes his cancers are more than likely a direct result of his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in the military in Vietnam.
TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE
Steven Williams receives a small social security check and a small disability check from the VA. When she died, his mother Harriett left instructions in her WILL and Trust that Steven was to receive $2,000/mo. stipend from her trust.
Unfortunately, benefits he was supposed to receive from his mother’s trust were summarily cut off by the trustee. It’s interesting to note, this is the same trustee who secretly wrote herself out a check for $300,000 from his mother’s trust account to buy herself a new home in Los Osos, California.
The trustee claims she legally “borrowed” the money in an arms-length transaction, but Steven Williams views the so-called “loan” as pure thievery the trustee kept secret from him. She legally had a duty to disclose this so-called loan to Steven Williams as a beneficiary of the trust.
Steven said, “The trustee thinks my mother’s trust is her money, when the trust really belongs to the Williams Family. The damn lawyers have teamed up with the trustee to convert my mother’s trust account into their own personal piggy bank.”
Steven J. Williams has no one. Except for a few loyal friends, he’s all alone in the world. He never had children despite being married three times, and his parents have long since past. Friends have stepped in to help when they can.
It’s a crying shame the VA cannot provide Steven Williams with a bump in his disability rating to reach the 100% threshold so he can receive benefits as his health steadily declines. One of the caregivers said, “At this rate, he’s only got a few more months left on the earth.”
We left our enemies 80 billion dollars worth of military gear in Afghanistan, but the United States government cannot come to the aid of an ailing military veteran when he needs it most… literally at the end of his life.
When you hear someone from the VA say, “Thank you for your service,” be highly suspect. While some people are deeply appreciative of those who serve our country, for others, it’s just a bullshit line uttered like a parrot to satisfy VA supervisors.
The VA is doing to Steven Williams what they have done to thousands of other veterans – delay and deny until they all die. If the VA can drag their feet long enough, they can save a bunch of money they never paid out. They can use that money instead for bonuses and/or junket flights to Hawaii for bullshit symposiums.
If our analysis of the Steven Williams case sounds jaded, it’s because it is. We think people like Steven Williams that have served America in a shooting war deserve so much better from a country that prints and pisses away billions of dollars each and every day.
Why in the world would anyone want to join the armed forces of the United States?