weather icon Clear

Widow’s experience spurs legislation to aid veterans

In a world that increasingly is made up of abbreviations, Nevadans may sometimes hear the letters “NRS,” “BDR” and others in regards to the Legislature in Carson City. Those letters could be tossed aside as just more politics, but they are important designations when it comes to getting legislation passed in the Silver State. And they are extremely important to Barbara Rodgick, a Southern Nevada Agent Orange widow who has displayed a versatile expertise in getting a bill passed that could benefit thousands of veterans.

Several years ago Rodgick’s husband came down with multiple myeloma, a disease connected to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. For several years the couple had no inkling that the illness was related to Army service.

“Like the majority of veterans, he only saw civilian doctors,” she said. “Fortunately for us, we accidentally found out that his disease was connected to his military service, and we applied for benefits. And we were overwhelmed by the wonderful support we got from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

At the time they were living in Seattle, and their benefits were handled by the VA in that city. “In less than two months we got an answer from the VA, and we could not have been happier,” she said. However, due to the delay in understanding how the illness was contracted, much time had elapsed before treatment began. “He passed away one week before our planned move to Nevada was scheduled. But my husband died knowing that his country was there for him,” Rodgick explained.

Her husband, Bill, served four years in the Army, in Korea and Vietnam, working in the intelligence field. After the service he used the G.I. Bill to earn a college degree.

As the illness began to develop in her husband’s system, they were initially unaware of its source. “You know, like most veterans we had all heard the term ‘Agent Orange.’ I mean, who hasn’t heard ‘Agent Orange’? But did we know the 14 specific diseases that it is associated with? No, we didn’t.”

When she learned about the diseases associated with the chemical, “it was a total surprise to us. Agent Orange is just a catch term, and people really don’t understand exactly what that means.”

Her medical education came by accident. “It’s your loved one so you are doing all you can, and I was always on the internet searching for the latest information, the latest medication. And one day out of the universe, it prompted me to put in the words ‘VA and multiple myeloma’, and it came up. I was shocked.”

She filed a claim with the VA, and in a very short time she and her husband received a large compensation check for back benefits. Her husband was rated at 100 percent disabled. “We didn’t expect that. We thought we’d get to go to the VA hospital, and that was it.”

After Bill’s death she said she began to process thoughts about the realization that many civilian doctors don’t know about Agent Orange diseases. She and her husband had medical insurance and had initially gone to civilian doctors, who were unaware of illnesses connected to military service. She learned that military service can affect all aspects of health, from infertility to tinnitus to joint and back problems to homelessness. “It’s just everything that you can imagine.”

She said civilian medical professionals in general are unaware of any of that information. She began to speak about the situation at various veterans gatherings and, over time, she was encouraged to approach elected officials and develop information for potential legislation. She caught the ear of Assemblywoman Brittney Miller, who agreed to sponsor a bill draft request. The result as of now is a 16-page request, AB300, that Rodgick hopes will become a Nevada revised statute that will accomplish her goal.

“What we want to have is that civilian health care professionals ask their patients, ‘Did you have any U.S. military service?’ And that is not a ‘yes or no’ answer. That is not a ‘check the box.’ That’s the beginning of a conversation. And that’s what’s so important. We want to start a conversation about that and see where it goes from there.”

The bill provides for civilian health care professionals to obtain free online education so they can learn about unique military medical needs. It is going through the required legislative steps at this time. Rodgick said she hopes it will be passed before the end of the current legislative session and signed by the governor. It will be a tribute to her late husband, and the beginning of help for many veterans and their families.

“What we all want is better health care for our veterans,” she said.

Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War and the host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m. on 97.1-FM.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Transparency seems AWOL

Tuesday night’s selection of a new council member to fill the seat vacated by Kiernan McManus when he was elected mayor certainly raises some eyebrows.

Gravity always wins

Fall is just around the corner.

City played role early in DiCaprio’s career

I was on Facebook recently when Boulder City resident Samantha Foster shared a video showing 2016 Academy Award winning actor Leonard DiCaprio cruising through our town. The 1995 Japanese commercial, which can be found on YouTube.com, has DiCaprio toting a Honda Civic as he and co-star Yasuko Matsuyuki briefly explore Boulder City and the surrounding desert.

Letters to the Editor

Politics, holiday parades should be kept separate

City makes the Fourth fabulous

Today is a day of great significance in our nation. It’s America’s birthday, the celebration of our declaration of independence from England.

Boulder City’s spirit shines brightly

Words cannot express my gratitude for the involvement and support of many of you during the campaign and election process. I am honored to have been elected as your mayor, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve our great community.

Roosevelt puts his stamp on Boulder Dam

I’ve been collecting postage stamps since I was 14 and still enjoy the hobby greatly. Back in the ’80s I joined a new stamp club that was to be for “Worldwiders,” becoming member No. 25 and then vice president of public relations.

Nearby sites grand places to visit

Earlier this month, I spent a couple of days exploring one of the world’s natural wonders: the Grand Canyon.

Residents can watch history in the making

It is said that those who don’t recall their history are condemned to repeat it. That might not be a bad thing in Boulder City. Everyone seems to be pining for the old days. The ’31ers built this town into what it is today, and the current residents want to keep it that way.