Branch Vietnam Veteran Continues To Fight Veterans Affairs for His Illness to Be Recognized

Branch local, Matthew Gould, a Private First Class in the U.S. Army, served in the Vietnam War. His role as a specialist dog trainer allowed him to work with 25 different units from January to October, 1969. He saved many lives navigating the country’s terrain for other troops. 

Nearly 52 years, and several claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs later, he’s still fighting for his medical records to be released and for his conditions stemming from his time in service to be recognized.

Earlier this month, he received a letter from the V.A. denying that he had candida septicemia – an infection he says was caused by exposure to Agent Orange. He’s been on medication for the fungal infection for years.

“The VA medical opinion found no link between your diagnosis, medical condition and the military service,” Gould says, reading from the letter he received. “I had this Candida septicemia so I don’t understand how they can make statements like that. I was suffering from this infection. It was causing cysts and sinus infections that were horrendous. And they denied it.” Matthew Gould At Work

Gould is asking for acknowledgement of his illnesses and to have it documented as part of his VA case file. He was listed as having hepatitis in 1969 which he says he didn’t have but he believes was confused as the fungal infection.

He is currently on 100% disability for PTSD and hearing loss, but still wants to be compensated for the correctly documented conditions. He’s also asking for his medical records, that have yet to be released to him.

“My records have been held in secret. That’s why I don’t understand how they can say that they used records that aren’t available to anybody else,” Gould says. “You’re dependent on their assistance for your health benefits. You’re dependent on them for your income. I’m not able to go out and work or do things. So this disability payment and the medication are key and they seem to be very well aware.”

Gould had an appellate hearing with a D.C. based judge in November. He explained his conditions and the corrections he wanted on his VA case file.

Matthew Gould On The PhoneThe judge has not made their ruling on the appeal, despite the recent decision letter. Each condition he files a claim on is considered separately though Gould claims they all stem from the Agent Orange exposure. The judge has to decide whether there is sufficient evidence for the VA to change his record from a hepatitis illness to a candida septicemia and acute cellulitis, and connect them to his time in service.

Gould has spoken with a representative from the Veterans Affairs Detroit Regional office. They are only able to confirm the pending claims. Due to a backlog of claims and appeals brought on by COVID-19, it’s unclear when a decision will be made on either claim.

As for the medical records, he can file a release of his private records with the help of this VA representative.

“I took care of my mother, my father and my sister,” Gould says. “The demand was for their care, not for mine. I let mine go by the wayside. And now that I have time to put to these issues, I try and keep them at the forefront so that there’s some possibility that I may improve my quality of life.”

Gould has also sought out help from Congressman Bill Huizenga and Senator Gary Peters. It is a policy that neither office can comment on a private individual’s case. But they have responded to Gould.

Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency has reached out and while they can’t access his medical records, they can offer support and resources when it comes to his benefits.