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Update On Widow's Claim

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from Denise, DSNurse:

Widow's VA claim gaining steam

Monday, July 28, 2008


Staff Reporter

A Mobile woman says she was encouraged recently when a Department of Veterans Affairs appeals judge agreed to review a claim involving her late husband, who believed that his Army exposure to radiation triggered his deadly cancer.

Theresa Orrell said she has been struggling with the VA over her husband's case for nine years, seeking

acknowledgement of the dangers that he faced, as well as compensation for her family.

About six weeks before dying in 1999, Lt. Col. William A. Orrell III, an Army Reserve officer, filed a claim with the VA, certain that his pancreatic cancer was connected with his encounter with depleted uranium in Kuwait. He was 56 when he died.

Last month, an appeals judge, Lisa Barnard, took Orrell's depleted uranium death claim under advisement after a hearing in Montgomery. A ruling is expected in six to nine months.

"I was encouraged because this judge was more down-to-earth than the previous judge and she wanted all the facts," Theresa Orrell said.

She has pursued her husband's case while working and earning a degree from Spring Hill College to better support her three children.

Lt. Col. Orrell had gone to Kuwait in June of 1991 as commander of the 1103rd Transportation Battalion with the job of rounding up American military vehicles used in Operation Desert Storm for return to the United States, according to his wife.

There had been a huge explosion and fire involving U.S. military vehicles containing depleted uranium on July 11, 1991, in Doha, Kuwait, and he was sent two days later to inspect them, she said. That's when he believed he was exposed to high levels of radiation, Theresa Orrell said. She said the vehicles were still smoldering while he inspected them.

Depleted uranium is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process and because of its high density is used as a shield to protect U.S. military vehicles. It is also used in the manufacturing of munitions, such as armor-piercing bullets and tank shells.

Page 2 of 2

There has been extensive controversy about depleted uranium and its possible toxic effects on U.S military personnel who have served in Kuwait and Iraq.

A VA spokesman in Washington, D.C., said recently that he could not comment on the Orrell case until Theresa Orrell signs and returns to the agency a privacy waiver. The spokesman said a VA official was not immediately available to discuss the depleted uranium issue in general as pertains to the VA.

Theresa Orrell is seeking compensation and dependents' assistance for herself and her three children since they owe about $86,000 in college loans, she said. Two of the children have completed college, while the youngest is a sophomore at the University of South Alabama.

She noted that she has a video in which her husband reported that he went to Doha after the explosion to check on the vehicles. She said he told her that the Army did not provide him with protective gear.

At the June 27 appeals hearing, she said, the judge agreed that her husband was at Doha at the time that he claimed. The appeals case rests on a decision by the VA concerning the radiation levels at the site of the fire, Theresa Orrell said.

William Orrell enrolled at the University of South Alabama in 1964 — the first year of the school — and was the first editor of the school's Vanguard publication, Theresa Orrell said. He went on to graduate from the Army's Officer Candidate School and served for 35 years in the Army Reserve and the National Guard.

Theresa Orrell said her husband was a patriot who volunteered for service in both Bosnia and Operation Desert Storm.

"I want the Army to say my husband died because of his service to his country," she said. "

---------------Ineresting case and could be important to other vets and widows-it bothers me that the VA decision will hinge apparently on the RAD dosage-Atomic vets have always had a heck of a time proving their RAD dosage was higher enough to prove radiation-caused illnesses.

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Since 1947 when Lt. Rudolph J. Feres died in a barrack fire at Pine Camp N.Y. related to faulty heating sstem the Va put the "Feres Doctrine in place..Heres's widow sued the govt for negligence and lost in the supreme court 9-0.

Under the Feres Doctrine, active duty are denied opportunity for significant recovery for injuries or death suffered...them if alive or family cannot sue for malpractice. Feres supporters say the doctrine is nesessary to protect the VA(military) from costly, time consuming trials that could compromise military disciplines.

They will not be held liable for injuries or death and the case will be thrown out becase of the Feres doctrine. In 1987 it was challenged however the vote by the supreme court justices was 5 to 4 to remain. It is a travestee you cannot sue the va hosp/dr/staff, however if it is your dependent, spouse, child you can sue.

The va will try to pay compensation or dic if they choose, however there have been many cases that they have denied because of this doctrine.

That is why there are so many problems with VA care.

35 yr old Army Capt James Lemp died in Fort Leonard Wood Mo from faulty care...they tried to revive him using equipment for a pediatric patient and he weighed 175 lbs. So many cases the care was negligent and the vets have died but the family cannot do anything legally.

The basic argument is the military cannot be held to the same standards of care and safety because the preperation for war itself is dangerous. This way the govt has its own procedures for determining the claims should be upheld. The govt say it would break the va if they allowed the suits.

Why not seek out better staff to care for vets, them no one would be worring about so many suits.

Another case involved Airman Witt and he died. So many vets have been misdiagnosed with cancer and never received proper treatment timely but no suits allowed because of Feres Doctrine. There are hundreds and hundreds of cases. Unless someone can change the minds of the supreme court judjes this will stand as is, and has been.

Sad but true.

I wish The Orell family luck with their fight as Teresa has been fighting for years.

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