New York Senator Charles Schumer stood with the family of local veteran and Veterans Outreach Center founder Tom Cray Monday afternoon, calling on the VA to better assist veterans diagnosed with glioblastoma.
Cray served two combat tours in Vietnam, but does not receive service-related compensation for the cancer because it is not recognized as a service-connected illness by the VA.
Although the Agent Orange Act of 1991 says the VA automatically accepts that a Vietnam veteran who served physically in Vietnam from January 1962 to May 1975 was most likely exposed to Agent Orange, the VA does not recognize glioblastoma as an Agent Orange illness.
Schumer, who is also the Senate Minority Leader, said Cray and other veterans like him aren’t trying to take advantage of the system, they simply want to receive the care they fought for and deserve.
"When you have so many cases of glioblastoma which is not the most frequent type of illness, and they’ve already approved 20 and made each one fight through it, that rationale doesn’t hold."
More than 20 cases of glioblastoma have been approved and treated by the VA, but those records aren’t publicly released, leaving veterans to make their own cases and continue to jump through hoops. Schumer is asking that these records be made available to other veterans seeking similar appeals.
Tom Cray's daughter Lindsay Cray said the diagnosis has taken quite the toll on her family, and that it feels like working two or three jobs providing the kind of care her father needs, but isn’t receiving from the VA.
"We do need to get the VA to start acknowledging that they have to take care of those and serve those who served them."
Schumer is also asking the VA to conduct their studies linking the cancer to Agent Orange in a timely manner, and fix the gaps in its data of veterans with glioblastoma. Right now, only 500 veterans have been diagnosed with glioblastoma, but that is because they only count those diagnosed in VA hospitals.