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Mar-03-2014 17:06printcomments

WW II Veteran Denied Disability Insurance for 28 Long Years

A proud soldier, John Brenan’s denied disability insurance journey proved to be his toughest fight.

Decorated WWII Vet
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(OAKLAND) - A 90-year-old veteran of World War II who first applied for disability payments in 1986 and has since been made to deal with denied disability insurance countless times has finally, after 28 long years, reached the light at the end of his tunnel. But it’s been a long road for the military veteran who once stood amongst the ruins of Hiroshima not long after the atomic bomb was dropped. He even drank thirstily from a nearby well amidst the rubble.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle (1/25/14), John Brenan would have had no idea at the time, in 1945, that he was surrounded by radiation from the explosion. In fact, doctors told him four decades later that it was probably the radiation exposure that led to his colon cancer in the mid-1980s. The good news is that Brenan beat the disease. But he had a far tougher time getting disability.

Dealing with his California ERISA-denied claim would take decades and would require the intervention of a US Congresswoman to finally receive benefits.

According to the report, his claim was first stamped long-term disability denied due to the fact that the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) did not recognize radiation-caused colon cancer for veterans of WW II. Brenan tried a second time to secure disability benefits as a war veteran under the VA and California Insurance Law, but was again denied. Again, his condition wasn’t recognized.

That all changed in 2002 when federal law finally recognized Brenan’s type of cancer and began extending benefits. However, Brenan by then had long since given up his fight for benefits after his twice-denied ERISA disability claim. Plus he didn’t know about the change until Brenan’s daughter moved in to his California home to serve as caretaker for her elderly father. Jill Pell, according to the report, read about the updated coverage in a newsletter that arrived in the mail from a veteran’s group.

So they applied again, in 2010. You guessed it - their file was marked California insurance claim denied. This time, according to the report, the VA made a mistake and turned Brenan down for benefits through an error that saw the VA determine Brenan had suffered from a different form of cancer that wasn’t covered.

That’s when Brenan took his case to Congress for some California insurance claim help, and with support from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), Brenan, at 90, is finally receiving benefits he first sought in 1986. “John’s claim was denied over and over again, mistakes were made over and over, and he only finally got his benefits because we wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Speier said during a press conference at her office, with the 90-year-old war veteran at her side.

A proud soldier, Brenan’s denied disability insurance journey proved to be his toughest fight. “I was just doing my duty,” Brenan said, trying to hold back the tears, in comments published in The Chronicle. “I’m sorry; it’s just been so hard. I just hope my case helps make things easier for a lot of other soldiers.”



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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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