Veteran wins benefits after FOX 2 Agent Orange report

FOX Files
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(KTVI) – A military veteran suspected to have been exposed to Agent Orange feared the VA would deny him benefits, waiting for him to die.  Now a huge change since our story after an unexpected government response.

One week after our FOX Files investigation about vets denied benefits for exposure to Agent Orange, Bill Casto received a 27 page letter with a surprising acknowledgement.

Casto read from the letter, “It says ‘VA memorandum, herbicide exposure conceded dated February 5 2016.’  After all these years since 2009, when I originally filed my claim they`re admitting now that I was exposed to herbicide.”

He got the letter February 5th, one week after our report when Casto told us, “Deny, deny, deny until you die is what we say.”

67-years old and hooked to oxygen, he suspected the VA may be waiting him out.

Casto said, “There`s thousands of us in the same boat, thousands of us.”

He says friends are surprised and assume the government acknowledges Agent Orange hurt Vietnam soldiers.

Casto said, “But because we served in Thailand and never had our boots on the ground in Vietnam we are treated differently.  For instance, if you could prove that you stepped one foot on the ground in Vietnam, you are able to get the benefits of being exposed.”

After our report, veterans across the United States contacted FOX 2 as they struggled to prove Agent Orange exposure, even widows like Netia Krieter of Highland, Illinois.

Krieter talked about hearing Casto, “When he said, ‘they deny till you die,’ that`s what they did to my husband.  My husband died in September 2014 and he made me promise that I would keep up the fight.”

John Krieter III also fought the Vietnam War from Thailand.

Doctors diagnosed Krieter with four diseases that appear on the VA’s own website as ‘associated with Agent Orange.’

Krieter said her late husband “had aggressive prostate cancer.  He had it twice and that is what took his life.”

Denied benefits until he died, Netia was told his claim died with him.  She refiled, for what`s called `injured spouse benefits, ` to fulfill her husband`s dying wish.

She said, “It`s somebody taking the responsibility that yes I got this over there. Yes somebody needs to say you served your country, you were exposed to this and yes you matter.”

A declassified report called Project CHECO, has been a key for many vets.  It documents ‘herbicides were employed’ in ‘base defense in Thailand.’

Veteran Kurt Priessman fought hard to open the report.  He talked to us by phone from Texas.

Priessman told me, “So it does kind of give you the idea that they didn`t want it declassified and

I just happened to hit the mark with my request.”

He added, “The fact that it still after this many years, still a matter of discussion and debate is just amazing to me.  It makes me wonder about whether the Federal Government is actually helping or hurting the veterans that it sent over into Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.”

Last week, Casto was still waiting to hear what benefits he might get, but said he’s relieved after all these years.  He said, “First of all I had to laugh, someone in St. Louis must be watching Channel 2 news haha and then I was very grateful for what FOX 2 News and you in particular have done for me so hopefully we can help other veterans in the same boat.”

Casto emailed us this morning, after our follow up interview, with even better news.  He titled the e-mail “we won!” and went on to explain that the VA awarded him a 70% overall disability rating.  He said after seven years of dealing with the VA on this, he believes he’s now won the battle.

About the FOX Files

The Fox Files are groundbreaking investigations you won’t see anywhere else. The series is well known for breaking the Pam Hupp story nationally. The reports that led to the exoneration of Russ Faria. But, it is far from the only time in which our investigations led to overturned convictions and freedom for the wrongfully accused. The Fox Files investigations do not fit into just one category, other than the fact our reports shine a light on issues and corruption in ways you won’t see anywhere else.

You won’t know what to expect as our reports often take twists that surprise even Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes.

“You never know where the truth will lead and you have to keep searching for it, even when you think you might be done,” Hayes said.

From getting arrested for trying to cover a public meeting, to getting law enforcement involved in his report about a daycare fight club, the Fox Files has been at the forefront of breaking news investigations in the St. Louis area.

It doesn’t stop just in St. Louis. The Pam Hupp/Russ Faria story took him to Lincoln County. Fox 2 was the first to report, nationally, on the synthetic drug epidemic when it began in St. Charles County, MO. In St. Louis County, our Fox Files reporting led to the dismantling of some police departments, including the departments of Uplands Park and Jennings. And in the City of St. Louis, our investigations led to swift government actions, such as our report that led to the Governor’s ordered shut down of a daycare.

Our reporting in St. Louis also led to former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ exclusive Fox Files interviews involving his court fight to oust the chief prosecutor while attempting to prove that political corruption led to an illegal overturning of a state election.

“It’s not always bad news,” Hayes said about a recent victory for a restaurant in his coverage of a St. Clair County Illinois issue. A Fox Files report, exposing a health department’s mistake over the COVID-19 pandemic, led to an overturning of a decision, allowing the business to open for limited inside dining.

Another investigation took us to Madison County, where prosecutors praised Fox 2’s coverage while shutting down an illegal synthetic drug business – and to Monroe County, where we uncovered key evidence in the Chris Coleman murder trial.

Even the national media, continues reaching out to local affiliate Fox 2 KTVI and the Fox Files, for its work on cases that are important to St. Louis. When you see a network television’s coverage of St. Louis, you’ll often see that they gathered information that was first uncovered right here.

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