Vietnam veteran dying of cancer fights the VA for full compensation

Local News

Lots of little girls grow up thinking their fathers are heroes, but Bessie Domicello knows her father is. Now she says, it’s her turn to be his hero.

“He’s everything to me, that’s why I’m fighting for him,” says Domicello.

It’s hard to see her father, Charles, the picture of an American soldier, a former marine and Purple Heart recipient, sitting in his living room, hooked up to an oxygen machine, dying of two different types of cancer.

Bessie, now fights for the man who fought for his country, but can no longer fight for himself. 

“My father had no problem signing the papers to go into Vietnam, and fight for his country, now it’s their turn to give him what he deserves,” said Domicello.

Her father’s medals, not even worth the metal they were forged with, as Bessie struggles to have someone, anyone at the VA give her father full benefits for the illnesses he likely contracted as a direct result of his service.  

“He did his time, and what he’s been diagnosed with is from being exposed to that so I believe the VA should do what they need to do and give him what he deserves,” said Domicello.

Her father was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, and to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. His medical conditions fall under the umbrella of presumptive illnesses that the VA acknowledges stem from military service.

“He went to the hospital the other day and he couldn’t walk to the stretcher, two guys had to lift him. I had nightmares all night long,” said Domicello. 

Not dissimilar to the nightmares she says her father continues to experience as a result of PTSD. May marks one year since she filed claims with the VA for full compensation, and still, nothing. Every day, she hopes to wake from this nightmare. 

“They’ve been dragging their feet and he’s declining,” said Domicello.

Two months to a year: That’s how long doctors say her father has left  to live, and the reality is, the struggle to get his compensation, will likely outlive him. 

“We have to think about that the veteran may die from something he’s suffering with and the fact that it’s unfinished is the most frustrating thing we deal with in this office,” said Nick Stefanovic, the director of the Veterans Service Agency of Monroe County.

Stefanovic, a veteran himself, who helps veterans file claims with the VA, says this is not uncommon unfortunately.

“I can’t go bang on the door at the VA, they know what’s going on, as you can see we have filed everything that we can,” said Stefanovic. 

Stefanovic says there’s a mountain of medical evidence supporting the claims, and that, as a veteran himself, it’s hard to see others struggling and to see what his future and the future of his fellow service members could look like. 

“We are at the mercy of the VA, we’re just waiting and with this, I can’t get myself to say that this is justifiable, that this is ok,” said Stefanovic.

“It’s the VA’s turn now, to do what they need to do for my father at this point,” said Domicello. 

We reached out to the VA multiple times and did not have comment returned before this story.

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