Reporting Jim Williams
CHICAGO (CBS) – A Marine Corps veteran is in danger of losing his home, because of a serious illness connected to his service in Vietnam more than 40 years ago.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports the U.S. Veterans Administration had been helping the Chicago man, but much of that support has stopped, and now he’s in the fight of his life.
Sonny Cooper was once a robust U.S. Marine.
He volunteered for the Marine Corps, and saw combat in Vietnam. In 1967, he was exposed to Agent Orange, a deadly herbicide used by the U.S. to fight the war by destroying swaths of jungle and rural land to deprive enemy soldiers of cover and food.
“We would see them spraying. As a matter of fact, we’d be right under them sometimes,” Cooper said.
Years later, Cooper was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which the Veterans Administration linked to Cooper’s exposure to Agent Orange.
He was awarded 100 percent disability pay, but it has since been reduced to 20 percent. Cooper said the VA told him that’s because his cancer is in remission.
“I’m not going to be able to pay my house note. I had to give up my insurance. I had to give up my car,” he said.
Cooper’s daughter said her father had always worked hard.
“He would still be working right now today if it wasn’t for all the illness he was having, and going through the different cancer treatments,” Chaundra Cooper said. “Right now, today, he would get up at 6 in the morning, and go to work with a smile on his face.”
Though Sonny Cooper is 72 years old, he insisted he would gladly work today, if not for the cancer.
“I couldn’t walk, and my mind was weary too, because I was forgetting a lot of things,” he said.
There’s another problem; Cooper recently found out he has colon cancer, too.
Judith Mintz, a social worker for Unity Hospice, said “it’s a shame that he’s going through this.”
Unity Hospice has been providing some assistance to Cooper.
“We need to take care of these men, because they took care of us,” Mintz said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Veterans Administration said it is researching Cooper’s case, and will be in touch with him regarding his benefits. They promised an update in the next few days.