Alex Graham, of Elgin, is a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War.
He has all his limbs but lives with several war-related medical conditions including tinnitus, diseases from Agent Orange, hepatitis C, degenerative disc disease, Crohn’s disease, cryoglobulinrmia and porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT).
Graham has recently written a book to help other veterans.
Titled “ASKNOD,” it details his attempts to obtain disability benefits from 1989 (a claim he lost) until 2008, when he finally won one.
The book describes his difficulties with the Veterans Administration (VA), the Veterans Service Organization (VSO) and others who are supposed to help veterans, but seem to work on a philosophy of “ignore, delay and discourage” applicants, he said.
Graham also started a blog (asknod.wordpress.com) to assist other veterans in winning their own claims. He used a pseudonym on the blog and the book title because his claims were still being processed. NOD is the acronym for Notice of Disagreement.
Graham graduated from a prestigious East Coast high school, joined the Air Force before he was drafted and after training, he headed to Vietnam.
Because he’d had three years of French, he was assigned to teach the subject in Laos, a “neutral” country. Deprived of a U.S. military uniform and identification and not “militarily legal” in Laos, he ended up in a nonmilitary hospital after being shot in the leg. Development of hepatitis C was almost immediate.
After two years of service in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, Graham was discharged. He sought compensation from the VA and was told he’d lost his case.
In 2007, after a full physical, his doctor decided to treat him with Interferon, which he refused previously because it was still in testing stages, he said. Ignoring the fact he had an autoimmune disease and elevated numbers, he was given the shot. It negatively affected his autoimmune system and changed the state of his health downward.
Graham learned how to use a computer and discovered many things he thought the VA or VOS should have told him, including the need for a nexus letter.
He wasn’t cured and started the process for VA benefits again. He learned his 1994 case hadn’t been “lost,” and not even closed, so he asked that it be re-opened.
Graham had kept good records of his military service. He said the VA had no legal records of him having served or been hospitalized in Vietnam. He had to provide copies of records more than once because he was told he hadn’t filed them.
Graham and his wife finally opted to “go it alone” and although some items were still in appeal at book publication time, he has received more disability compensation.
He now watches what he eats because he doesn’t want additional chemicals and processed food in his system. He found it difficult to change some of his diet, like giving up red meat, but cultivates a large garden that includes berries and fruit.
Graham said that 85 to 88 percent of VA claims are not approved because veterans aren’t given adequate information, leaving many stuck in complex governmental red tape.
To date, he has worked with 30 veterans. He said all but two have made successful claims for benefits.
He said some of the photos in his book aren’t easy to look at, and the process of his various illnesses and procedures isn’t pleasant reading, but he hopes to help many more veterans who have met with difficulty in filing their claims.
“ASKNOD” is an easy-to-read, down-to-earth “how to” book for veterans or their families who would like help with their own disability claims.
Graham’s book can be purchased at Amazon.com or from his asknod.wordpress.com blog site.