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thedrifter
04-10-06, 09:21 AM
Persistence pays off for retired veteran getting VA assistance with medical bills
April 10,2006
CHRIS MAZZOLINI
DAILY NEWS STAFF

John Michael Moore finally got some relief — after more than 20 years.

Moore, a former Navy corpsman and a current employee of the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department, recently reached a settlement with the Department of Veterans Affairs to help pay for thousands of dollars worth of medical bills resulting from a blood disease he contracted in a naval hospital in 1984.

While he declined to say how much the settlement was worth, Moore did say the VA has agreed to pay 60 percent of his medical bills, retroactive to 1999, and he now has complete medical coverage in the future for ailments connected to his blood disorder.

But the successful end of this arduous fight is worth more than any monetary payout, Moore said.

“I just wanted them to admit what went wrong and they did that,” he said. “I think (the settlement) was fair. I was never in it to get rich. By them correcting the record and admitting what happened, I am satisfied.”

However, his situation is still not completely resolved. Moore said he is submitting more claims to the VA be reconsidered. Also, a claim with the Navy is still pending. Moore said he believes that process will go easier now that the VA decision has been made.

Moore’s ordeal began when he was a 24-year-old corpsman, working in an infectious disease ward at San Diego’s Naval Hospital. There, Moore was exposed to projectile vomit from a patient. Two days later, he awoke sick and was rushed into emergency surgery to clean an infected abscess in his throat. But the fluid wasn’t properly suctioned, and some of it leaked into his stomach.

For a while, doctors told him he was suffering from gastroenteritis. Moore filed multiple claims with the VA, but lost paperwork, misdiagnoses or outright rejection left him uncompensated and racking up more bills.

His illness took a turn for the worse when his kidneys failed. He woke up one morning to find his right leg bloated and throbbing painfully. After being rushed to the hospital, a priest was called to read his last rites.

“Some people talk about belief in prayer and miracles and faith, but I had all but given up that I would find justice in this,” Moore said.

After Moore moved to Onslow County, he got help from local military groups such as the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. People like Jim Foyil helped him file VA claims and slog his way through the system.

“It was just a long, drawn out thing,” Foyil said. “The VA can be very time consuming and difficult to work with. We were just going through it a step at a time.”

Moore said area congressional representatives, especially U.S. Rep. Walter Jones and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, have been pivotal in getting his case heard by the right people.

He now helps run a service center for disabled and disadvantaged veterans called the John C. Carr Center. Through it, Moore plans to continue acting as a voice for the veteran community and those who continue to deal with health complications resulting from military service.

“In (starting the Carr center), I see a lot of people a lot worse off than I am,” he said. “I’ll continue lobbying for veterans benefits, I’ll continue lobbying for individuals. The only way we really make a difference is we all have to do our part to help our fellow veterans.”

And the ordeal taught Moore a valuable lesson.

“If you know you’re right, never lose faith in justice,” he said.

Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 229.