Ruling Grants Veteran Full Medical Benefits after Years of Denial

Article excerpt

Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

COOS BAY - Thanks to a recent government ruling, Vietnam veteran Stacy McLain now has full medical benefits, for the first time since he walked off an Army base in 1972, absent without leave.

The Veterans Affairs decision arrived by mail a few days ago, after McLain's mother spent 36 years battling unsuccessfully to get her son the proper treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

The government's reversal of decades of denials also came less than a month after the 56-year-old's troubles were chronicled in a front-page story in The Register-Guard.

Two days after the story was published on June 22, said Betty Meister, McClain's mother, a clerk from the VA office in Roseburg called her and said she had "received orders" to schedule her son for an appointment with a doctor there.

The following Tuesday, McClain went to see a VA staff psychologist named Allan Kirkendall. After a brief appointment, Kirkendall told McLain he was eligible for medical disability and pension benefits, Meister said.

"Thank you, thank you for your article," Meister wrote in an e-mail to The Register-Guard. "I'm sure it was seen by someone with influence."

Meister got confirmation of the medical benefits in writing over this past weekend, but has yet to learn whether McClain will get pension benefits.

Kirkendall did not return phone calls from The Register- Guard, and McLain's case manager with the VA, Kevin Kalama, said he needed additional release forms in order to discuss the veteran's case.

McLain went AWOL after a yearlong stint in Vietnam, where he blindly fired into the jungles from a helicopter.

The trauma he suffered there quickly led to an addiction to barbiturates and alcohol, and when he returned to the states, he said, he couldn't handle it, and walked away.

The penalty for going AWOL was a dishonorable discharge, which McLain and his mother later appealed.

It was post-traumatic stress that had caused his drug addiction, they argued. …