Widow Bettye McNutt Urges Congress to Act on Her 23-Year-Old VA Claim.
In powerful, poignant, and dramatic testimony Wednesday, Bettye McNutt, a client of Bergmann & Moore, told members of Congress about her nightmare experience over the last quarter of a century trying to get her claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) granted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
At yesterday’s House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) hearing, McNutt was accompanied by Bergmann & Moore partner Glenn Bergmann.
Bettye McNutt of Mississippi testifies before Congress. Accompanying her is attorney Glenn Bergmann. Photos: Paul Sullivan.
McNutt, the widow of Vietnam War veteran Ronald McNutt, who died at the age of 39 of cancer as a result of exposure to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange, appeared before the HVAC Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. She raised her son alone, as VA denied her DIC claim for 8,600 days (as of December 4, 2013).
Claim Pending 8,600 Days
Two large posters displayed at the hearing described Ms. McNutt’s claim history and showed Ronald McNutt and his family.
She described the repeated mistakes VA made on her 23-year old claim, which has caused unimaginable stress and grief to her and her family. “I ask VA to correctly and promptly apply the law and grant my claim,” she said. Several legislators, journalists, and members of the audience were brought to tears.
McNutt shared how seeking an attorney to appeal her DIC claim gives her new hope she will finally resolve her complex case.
“I was introduced to Agent Orange on my husband’s deathbed,” she said. “After 20 years of groping in the darkness, I prayed and asked for help, and one day I received a call from the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and I was told I might want to seek counsel. I went online and found Mr. Bergmann and decided that this was the person who was going to help me.”
Bergmann then told the Chairman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and the Subcommittee that the law firm put all of McNutt’s evidence together and submitted to VA. “We can do all we can to dot our I’s and cross our T’s, but we cannot make VA properly apply the law.” Bergmann then told the committee he is hopeful that McNutt’s case is finally close to being resolved.
VA’s Office of the Inspector General also testified before HVAC, confirming that VA makes frequent mistakes on claims, expecially for complex conditions, prompting Veterans to appeal. Complex conditions include Agent Orange, Gulf War illness, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Individual Unemployability (IU).
In addition to Subcommittee Chairman Runyan, Representatives on the Subcommittee include Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Paul Cook (R-CA), Member Dina Titus (D-NV), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), and Gloria Negrete-McLeod (D-CA). In addition, the HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Mike Michaud (D-ME) attended the hearing.
The Subcommittee hearing was televised live on C-SPAN.
McNutt’s testimony was covered by several national news organizations, including:
- Jamie Reno at Veteran Journal
- Josh Hicks at the Washington Post
- Rick Maze at the Army Times.