Vietnam veteran fighting to prevent benefits from reducing by 90 percent

(WBIR - Friendsville) Tommie Keeble has been collecting veterans benefits for the last seven years. Now, the government my take majority of that money away.

Keeble said he joined the U.S. Army in 1965.

"I got a notice, I was doing roofing, and my mother brought it out. It said, 'Congratulations from your President. You've been nominated to go into the Army,' and so I did," Keeble said. He added, "I went through pure you know what over there."

Keebles troubles didn't end when he returned home. In 2006, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. With that diagnosis, he got about $3,000 a month. Keeble has since won the battle against cancer, but has struggled with other medical issues.

Keeble explained, "One blood clot [in leg] popped up after I had my prostate surgery. Then in 2010 I had double knee replacements. Then in 2013, the first of the year around February, I had a shoulder replacement."

With the prostate cancer gone, Keeble got a letter explaining his benefits would now be reduced to $129 a month.

"I don't see how they can justify what they're doing. If they had reduced it and left me $500 - $600 I could still make it, but $129! What are you going to do with $129?"

Nathan Weinbaum, Director of Blount County's Department of Veterans Affairs, said the VA can legally change a veteran's benefits before 20 years if the veteran's condition improves.

"We do see it often when a veteran's condition improves. We see it with PTSD, we see it with some cancers, and other conditions. If it falls within 20 years, [The Department of Veterans Affairs] can reduce the benefits or even take it away," said Weinbaum.

But he also said, "We're going to fight for our veterans and if it's something we can prove that it shouldn't be taken away then we'll definitely put in the paperwork and help them with that process."

Meanwhile, Keeble still has bills. He recently bought a house and a car. Together, Keeble said the two payments total about $1,550 a month.

Thomas Keeble, Keeble's son, said, It's wrong to mess with a man who has made those sacrifices and who has suffered because of those sacrifices, health wise." Keeble's son added, "We just get the feeling that there's not a light at the end of this tunnel."

The family says they have also reached out to several lawmakers and so far those lawmakers have been helpful. Meanwhile, the ideal outcome for The Keebles is Tommie's benefits will be left alone.

"I didn't ask to go to Vietnam, my country asked me and that's what hurts," said Tommie Keeble.


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