After a five-year fight for healthcare coverage and VA disability payments, a Texas Vietnam veteran has gotten approval for his veterans’ disability claim. The 63-year-old Flower Mount resident received his disability benefits only after his case was publicized in a news article that appeared in The Dallas Morning News in August.
In 1968, Bill Sonntag served in the United States Navy as a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War. During his time in the service, he was stationed outside of Danang, where he was likely exposed to the toxin Agent Orange. Since his discharge, medical experts have discovered that military service personnel who were exposed to the chemical often developed a myriad of health problems–sometimes years later. In recent years, the Department Veterans’ Affairs made the decision to grant benefits to all veterans who could prove exposure to the poison, even if they could not clearly connect their medical issues with the substance.
Earlier this year, Sonntag fell ill and went to the emergency room with chest pain and other worrisome symptoms. When his local hospital found that he was suffering from cardiac arrest, he was flown to Denton Regional Medical Center for immediate heart surgery. There, they also discovered other health problems, including kidney failure and hypertension. He underwent a triple bypass surgery at the Dallas VA Medical Center. His medical bills climbed to over $200,000, but the VA refused to pay.
After his story appeared in the news, a Vietnam veterans advocate and a Congressman took up his cause. Within months, the VA granted him disability benefits based on his exposure to Agent Orange during his service overseas. However, he is still fighting for the VA to pay for the six-figure medical bills associated with his heart attack and subsequent surgery.