TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 72-year-old Paul DeVane of Tampa proudly served his country during a time of war. Now, he feels betrayed by his government.
During the Vietnam War, Paul served from 1968 to 1969 at the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base. Now, he worries that he may go to his grave spurned by the very government he swore to protect.
“Probably the most disappointing thing is my government lied to me,” Paul said as he broke into tears.
He remembers his first week at Korat.
The military sprayed the perimeter of the base, near where he worked.
“It just floats onto you and you can feel it when it hits your skin, because it is an oily substance, you can’t wipe it off,” explained Paul.
For decades the military denied spraying Agent Orange in Thailand. The toxic herbicide is linked to cancer, heart disease and several other deadly illnesses.
Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001, Paul said the VA told him not to bother applying for benefits because Agent Orange wasn’t used in Thailand.
Paul also suffers from ischemic heart disease, another condition associated with Agent Orange exposure.
In 2016 the VA denied Paul’s claim for disability benefits, stating there is no evidence Paul worked on or near the base perimeter or that Agent Orange was used there.
A map of Korat that Paul produced shows he worked within 150 feet of the base perimeter.
An Army field manual warns Agent Orange has a 500-meter drift zone.
Water wells at Korat sit in that zone.
“Just the thought of Agent Orange being sprayed all over those areas and then seeping into the groundwater that we’re getting our well water from on that base,” Paul said.
The VA continues to deny Paul and others.
“I think to avoid paying the benefits, they just want us to die,” he said.
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