March 16, 2010 1:20 AM
A former Camp Lejeune Marine suffering from a rare blood disease last week became one of a small number of veterans to receive full disability due to historical water contamination.
Braintree, Mass., resident Paul Buckley said he was shocked after multiple claim denials from the Department of Veterans Affairs to discover a packet in his mailbox granting his claim in full.
“I opened it up and almost fell to the ground,” he said.
The victory comes after a long and harrowing journey for the 46-year-old veteran. On May 10, 2006, more than 20 years after Buckley’s contract with the Marine Corps ended, he became rapidly ill, driving himself to the hospital before collapsing in its emergency room. He was in a coma for 10 days.
Buckley, then 42, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an uncommon and largely incurable form of cancer that typically afflicts a far different demographic.
“The doctors were confused because the people who get my disease are primarily elderly and they have worked in industries where there has been exposure to certain chemicals,” Buckley said. “I was burning my brain trying to figure out where I got this.”
Staff with the Boston branch of Disabled American Veterans, who advocated on Buckley’s behalf, said that he represented a “perfect storm” of circumstances: no environmental or family links to his disease and a detailed nexus letter from doctors with Harvard Medical School making his case.
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