MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) — An Army veteran living in Modesto fought for the U.S. in the Vietnam War. Now, he’s fighting for health coverage.
“I was in Vietnam, I saw these guys just taking orders and taking the hill,” said Joshua Melendez. “I was at the Battle of Hamburger Hill with the 101st. It was a meat grinder.”
Melendez is now facing one of the biggest battles of his life.
“The White House has to reconsider their position in adding the bladder cancer to the list,” he said.
Melendez said he was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2015 and believes his exposure to Agent Orange led to his disease.
“That dust was, not realizing, it was pretty deadly,” he told FOX40.
However, unlike other diseases believed to be caused by Agent Orange — such as prostate cancer — his cancer is not covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Why do we give so much, billions of dollars, to countries that hate us but we can’t take care of our veterans here?” he said.
He and his wife are trying to change that.
“Funding be a priority for these men who fought bravely and faithfully and without question,” Melendez’s wife, Brenda, told FOX40.
Congressman Josh Harder, D-Turlock, said his own grandfather died of a heart attack he believes was caused by the chemical. He just introduced a resolution that would help veterans such as Melendez.
“Every single veteran exposed to Agent Orange that now has bladder cancer or Parkinson’s or hypertension has those benefits covered by the Veterans Administration,” Harder said.
Melendez said it wasn’t about politics when he joined the military. As he continues to fight cancer, he said his health should be a nonpartisan issue.
“These guys weren’t thinking about politics when they took that hill, they were thinking about doing it bravely,” he said.
A spokesman with Harder’s office said they are expecting to hear from the VA and the Office of Management and Budget by early next year about why specific conditions believed to have been caused by Agent Orange are not covered.