Sunday, August 3, 2008

Matthew Bumpus just died for a Government that abandoned him

Please share this outrage! He served in the US Army for 8 years and 9 months. Staff Sergeant, Command Section Sergeant and Stryker Vehicle Commander; and was in Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. He was exposed to radiation in Iraq. The V.A. repeatedly denied him. Please read his story. He leaves behind his wife and two sons.

Excerpt from:

Matthew Bumpus (original inspiration for this site) was initially diagnosed with Acute Myleogenous Leukemia (AML)in August 2006. The following is excerpts from a letter Matt has sent to some Congress & Senate members in an attempt to get assistance. Hearing Matt's story in his own words is very powerful.

"My name is Matt Bumpus and I am 31 years old. I live in Roseville, CA with my wife and two sons. I had the honor of serving my country in the US Army for 8 years and 9 months. I was a Staff Sergeant, Command Section Sergeant and Stryker Vehicle Commander; and was in Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. I served in Iraq for a year and was primarily in heavy combat zones in and around Ballad and Al Mosul. When I returned, my wife and I decided to go home to California and start setting down roots near our extended family and continue growing our family.

In July of 2006, I was home, had a job with a bright future, we were expecting our second child, we had just moved into a house, and life was good! At that time I was receiving a 10% disability for a wrist and shoulder injury.  I had included a claim for hearing loss suffered while enlisted, but it was denied and therefore not included in the disability.

On July 31st I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital with acute appendicitis. The next thing I remember is hearing that I had been diagnosed with the life threatening disease; Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).  I was told that there was ‘chromosome damage due to radiation exposure.’ The following months of chemo, drugs, increased ringing in my ears, and various procedures, were at times unbearable. This is an extremely aggressive form of leukemia so the treatment is aggressive as well. But by the grace of God I went into
remission at the end of 2006. I returned to work and an almost normal life. I was alive, in remission, and very thankful.

As I mentioned earlier, I returned from Iraq with a hearing loss. While going through the first treatment for Leukemia, I also suffered increased hearing loss and a constant loud ringing in my ears. It is so loud at times that it could be maddening. I included this as part of the AML claim in October 2006 since it was linked to the treatment of the AML. The VA rejected the loss of hearing as part of the claim because they said that they couldn’t ‘see enough physical damage’ but then sent me to a saleswoman for a hearing aid costing thousands of dollars. She told me that not only would this help me hear, it would also help eliminate the ringing. At this
point I had been out of work for months, with a family to support, and my wife due to have our second son any day, how could I pay thousands of dollars for a hearing aid that the VA said I didn’t really need?

Sadly, after almost 2 years of remission, I find myself battling a relapse of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).

It has been medically established that AML can be caused by chemical exposures as well as radiation. Daily job responsibilities throughout my time in the Army included training and operation of combat vehicles like Bradleys and Strykers. When I served in Iraq, I guarded some chemical spills/sites and was exposed to Depleted Uranium (from weapons use). In one specific incident, our company was called in to guard what seemed to be an old sealed bunker. We were wearing our normal protective gear. It was very dark inside but when we found ‘unknown’ chemicals, a Nuclear Biological Chemical Specialist was called in for testing. When he recognized one of the chemicals he quickly left the site and returned in full protective gear. We immediately put on our masks and worked our way out of the building. When the testing was done, a higher echelon of testers was brought in, while we continued to guard at the door of the bunker. Based on the seriousness of the results, we were told to leave the bunker and stay approximately a mile away.

My disability claim for AML was made in October of 2006 when I was hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy. I had been through chemo, bone marrow biopsies, a lengthy hospital stay, and was recovering at home. Unfortunately, the V.A. denied the connection or disability benefits for the illness. In my ‘rejection letter’ from the VA, it states that “We denied your claim for pension benefits. The evidence of record fails to demonstrate you are unable to secure or follow a substantial gainful occupation as a result of this disability.” It also states “Service connection for Acute Myeloid Leukemia is denied.” (See enclosure #1)

And now the chemo, antibiotics, and AML have taken the majority of my hearing, and made the ringing worse.  

I can now only hear most people when they shout, and some people I can not hear at all. I can not hear doctors or nurses when they are discussing treatment or asking questions. Someone else must be there to make sure I get all of the information or summarize later. On a personal note, can you imagine not being able to hear your 18 month old son ask for a drink, or tell you he loves you? Would you protect your country if you knew you might not be able to hear your 11 year old son talk about his newest interest or ask a question about his faith? 

Currently I am waiting and praying for a lifesaving bone marrow match to be found. I will continue to have chemotherapy once a month until then and will not be released to go back to work for at least one year, and that is if a bone marrow match can be found. Another point to make is that if/when a match is found it costs $1,000 dollars per potential match to complete the final screening. Currently insurance doesn’t cover it and I am on a partial income while not working.

And there are others returning with this type of Leukemia as a well as other cancers. 

One such person was Andy Rounds. He joined the Army right out of high school. Andy served with Army 1/62 (Tropic Lightening out of Hawaii, Schofield Barracks) and he was stationed in Kirkuk, Iraq at a forward operating base. Two years after his release from the Army, Andy was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. Andy died in October of 2007 at age 22. His mother could not even get his funeral paid for. 

There is another man in Alabama, Joshua Barber, who served as a civilian Trainer to Iraqi police, jailers, and prison guards at the same location (Mosul) and he has recently been diagnosed with the same form of Leukemia.

And finally, one of the keys to the VA not taking responsibility for this is that it was not diagnosed within 12 months of separation of service. Research shows this disease, like other cancers, can take years to manifest. An irony here is that there is a ‘Gulf War exam’ that is offered to any service member returning from the Middle East I was not informed of it until after I was diagnosed.

In closing, I was willing to give my life for this country. I went to Iraq with the pride and conviction that I was protecting my America, my beliefs, and my family. Now I am asking for the same support. I believe that I am entitled to a full disability. I believe that the VA should take the obvious responsibility and do everything in its power to save my life and the lives of others, and prevent this from happening in the future. Returning veterans must be informed about the Gulf War Exam that they are entitled to. I risked my life to defend my country and I
would like to think that in return, this United States government would accept its responsibility and do the right thing.

I appreciate your time and attention to this matter and I would like to thank you in advance for anything you
might do to help.


Matthew Bumpus

Editor's Note: Matt has been going on and off for chemotherapy & other treatments at Sutter General Hospital
in Sacramento, while he waits for a bone marrow transplant.

At this time the family is requesting blood donations an account has been set up in his name, "Matthew
Bumpus" and/or "P560". We are also encouraging everyone to register with the Bone Marrow Registry (all it
requires is a simple swab to the cheek and a little paperwork)

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