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Pattaya Daily News

17 July 2007 :: 15:07:15 pm 47823


Yet another woeful case of neglect by the U.S. Authorities is highlighted by the plight of courageous Vietnam Vet, Richard Weinberg, who served in Vietnam as an elite Airborne Ranger, and was severely wounded, sustaining two severe head wounds. These resulted in paralysis to his left side and left him confined to a wheelchair.
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However, undaunted, he devoted himself to remedial methods; first gym and later yoga and Chi Kung, miraculously managing to free himself from the wheelchair and partially regained the use of his left arm. He took up yoga, studying first under the noteworthy university yoga teacher, Nicky Knoff who now runs the prestigious KNOFF Yoga ” School of Excellence ” in Queensland, Australia, then under an ex-SAS yoga therapist, Martin Jackson. Following this he became a private student of the doyen of yoga, B.K.S Iyengar, after which he took up teaching yoga to able-bodied students, despite being incapacitated, himself.

While in Vietnam, Richard was exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange that US forces liberally doused the jungles of Vietnam with to expose Vietcong hideouts and logistical trails. This noxious substance never leaves the body, and depletes the human immune system. It is only recently that the U.S. has reluctantly admitted culpability and its responsibility to its servicemen who were contaminated by Agent Orange.

Richard, however, had his own remedy, Chi Kung, the Taoist practice which restores the immune system and cleanses the body of toxic residues. By undertaking such disciplines as yoga, Chi Kung and latterly, Thai massage and herbalism, Richard saved the US taxpayer thousands of dollars, which otherwise would have had to have been spent on his aftercare.

Richard is now 100% disabled, staying in Thailand and totally dependent on his US disability pension of $3,400 (102,552 Baht) per month and reluctant handouts from the US Department of Veterans? Affairs (VA) and their Foreign Medical Program (FMP), which ostensibly takes care of the aftercare of its wounded veterans, living out of the States.

However, it is now 30 plus years since Richard was injured and his condition has worsened with the onset of stenosis of L4 & 5 and deterioration of the spinal and sciatic nerves. He is reliant on post-payments from the VA to pay for the medication of his service related condition, but speaking to one of Richard?s friends, Tim Coxon, who has been helping him with his communications with the VA, Tim says the department adopts a hyper-demanding policy as regards repayment.

Tim says that the VA expects those under its care to pay up front for all their medical costs, this despite the minimal allowance, grudgingly given. Often, apparently, they take months and months to repay these incurred costs (3 months normally) and the bureaucratic procedures that the VA put its dependents through is unbelievable. It often appears, according to Tim, that the VA employs a whole legion of people whose sole function is to prevent the dependent ever receiving any repayments.

The real crunch came when Richard?s condition deteriorated to such a degree that he badly needed a remedial operation on his spine, effectively to save his life. He appealed to the VA for payment in advance, as Thai hospitals, like those in the US, demand advance payment for medical care, however, this the VA categorically refused. We quote extracts from the email Richard received from the VA in this respect:

” Under FMP, VA may authorize payment for certain necessary medical services associated with the treatment of those service-connected conditions.

The FMP office does not issue pre-certification for foreign medical services. If you are in need of medically necessary treatment for the care of your VA rated service-connected condition, and that care is accepted by US/VA medical community, then you may just submit the bills with a copy of all required medical documentation to the FMP office for payment consideration.?

Richard implored the VA to make an exception in his case, but they stuck to their guns, despite being told that the operation was a life saving one and he effectively had no funds to pay the 120,000 Baht operation bill atSiriraj Hospital in Bangkok (phone 02-419-7000).

The US Embassy in Bangkok, too, was equally unhelpful, offering no aid whatsoever. Accordingly, Richard was forced to demean himself, to sell all his possessions and appeal to relatives for funds. He managed to scrape together sufficient funds to pay for the operation, but his condition is now critical as he cannot afford to remain in hospital, despite now being bedridden, unable to walk and being reduced to a vegetable-like state. The hospital recommends two weeks aftercare as an in-patient, otherwise they can?t guarantee his survival, but it looks as if Richard will have to check out before this, due to chronic lack of funds.
Richard?s friend, Tim, considers the current policy of the US Government as regards those who faithfully served their nation?s cause in what he describes as a benighted war to be totally inhumane.

He says the government was keen enough to send them off to be killed in their thousands (over 56,000 US troops were killed in action and untold thousands suffered innumerable incapacitating injuries and severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but when it comes to adequately looking after the injured survivors, the US authorities apparently couldn?t care less. He further maintains a similar accusation has been leveled at the US as regards their policy towards injured veterans in their current conflict in Iraq.

Tim is not prepared to abandon Richard to his fate as the US Authorities has done and is accordingly starting an appeal on Richard?s behalf via PDN, as he is well known and highly regarded by the PDN staff and all those in the neighbourhood.
Richard Harvey Weinberg, 61, born 12.1.46 in Lynn, Massachusetts, USA

We would appreciate any help you may be able to give in this regard. You can email via
pdnnews@gmail.com and CC

1:15 pm, 20/7/07

In an update to this news concerning Richard Weinberg, our reporter again interviewed Tim, Richard?s friend in view of recent news we’ve received. Tim, read some of the recent comments concerning the case on our website and would like to thank those who sympathize, on Richard?s behalf. As for skeptics, Tim wished to inform them that Richard is 100% incapacitated with 2 bullets still in his head, making written communications very difficult. As for funding, Richard has inordinate expenses. He has to fly or take a bus to various specialist hospitals around the country for treatment. His medication for pain killers (he?s in constant pain) is exorbitant and he has to employ 3 masseurs constantly to keep him mobile. Consequently, relatively fantastically expensive hospital bills and after-care and accommodation costs, to be paid in advance, are financially crippling.

In a further development, PDN also learnt that Richard?s carer and partner collapsed, yesterday, in hospital, due to exhaustion. She has also to undertake tests for suspected cancer. It never rains, but it pours! Tim has once again appealed for financial aid on Richard?s behalf. We will keep you updated.

2:20 pm. 22/7/07


Richard?s operation apparently went successfully, according to our reporter that interviewed Richard?s friend, Tim, who keeps in constant touch with him, being his conduit to the outside world. The operation was performed by one of the king?s surgeons no less! It was definitely life-saving and couldn?t have waited a minute longer; ?no thanks to the Department of Veterans? Affairs,? says Tim, ?but, at least, they would have been prepared to have paid posthumously, so they wouldn?t have made any savings on that one!?

Richard has had to move out of the hospital and become an out-patient, as he couldn?t afford the nearly 2,000 Baht a night residence costs, while also having to keep a hotel going to simultaneously house his support band of carers and masseurs that he has to drag around with him wherever he goes. None of the peripheral support being paid for by the VA, incidentally!

Once again, Richard has saved the US taxpayer, having built up amazing resilience through a lifetime of yoga and Chi Kung. For any normal person, it would have taken 2 weeks or more to have recovered from the spinal operation Richard had; for him it took only 3 days. Testimony to the amazing power conferred upon one through Chi Kung, especially in radically boosting the immune system and a phenomenon which once again totally surprised the doctors.

Richard has asked that we play down his Vietnam Ranger experience. As far as he?s concerned, it was all in another lifetime, so to speak, and his whole life since his original rehabilitation in the US and subsequent relocation abroad, has been devoted to remedial self-help therapy, largely through yoga, Chi Kung, herbalism and latterly Thai massage. Not just for himself, incidentally, but all those he has helped through his 20 years teaching yoga to able bodied individuals.

One good thing about now having changed his status to an out-patient is that he?s out of the deleterious atmosphere of the hospital, which is located in a highly polluted area of Bangkok and was actually depleting his immune system. Instead, he?s moved to a hotel located in a greener area where the good air and food will help his recovery. We?ll keep you updated as we learn more.

If you are really interested in helping Richard, pls read his story carefully.

Richard is 100% incapacitated with 2 bullets still in his head, making written communications very difficult. As for funding, Richard has inordinate expenses. He has to fly or take a bus to various specialist hospitals around the country for treatment. His medication for pain killers (he?s in constant pain) is exorbitant and he has to employ 3 masseurs constantly to keep him mobile. Consequently, relatively fantastically expensive hospital bills and after-care and accommodation costs, to be paid in advance, are financially crippling.
Here is the exchange rate figure:

We are not talking about 120,000 baht here now, for his situation. We are talking about how can we help him to survive quite comfortably.

Thank you for all your concern.

Reporter : Warina Punyawan   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Community News

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