By MAURA LERNER, Star Tribune
Last update: May 5, 2009 – 10:56 PM
In the past few years, Dr. Michael Koopmeiners has seen a surge in the number of veterans seeking help for war-related disabilities at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. At Koopmeiners’ clinic, which evaluates new disability claims, business has more than doubled since 2004 — from 6,800 to nearly 15,000 patients a year.
But only a fraction of the cases have anything to do with Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, most are Vietnam veterans who have waited until now, more than three decades after their war ended, to come forward and seek help. Vietnam veterans, he says, outnumber those of every other conflict combined.
Nationally, too, Vietnam veterans are coming forward by the tens of thousands with a vast array of medical problems, from hearing loss to cancer, that they believe are connected to their military service. In 2007 alone, a quarter of a million veterans were added to the VA disability rolls — more than a third of them Vietnam veterans, according to a VA spokeswoman.