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N4T Investigators: Woman continues fight for VA disability claim

TUCSON – A woman is still fighting for the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve her husband’s disability claim he filed before he died.

Bob O’Rourke was in the Marine Corps from 1972 until 1975. He spent time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The VA has admitted water was contaminated, and some types of cancers have been connected to the contamination.

O’Rourke was diagnosed with kidney cancer in January 2014. He was unable to work and filed for disability benefits. He died in November 2015.

News 4 Tucson reported on Bob and Kathy O’Rourke’s struggles back in 2015 and again in 2017.

“He needs to be compensated for his service and his suffering, bottom line,” Kathy O’Rourke said.

In 2017, a new law gave Kathy O’Rourke “dependency and indemnity compensation.” She received a few months of back pay and continues to receive payments. She is still fighting for the disability money because her husband fought cancer for almost 2 years and applied months before he died.

In an email, a VA representative stated, “We have contacted Mrs. O’Rourke directly to inform her of her options moving forward and answer any questions she may have.”

After the News 4 Tucson Investigators talked to O’Rourke and reached out to the VA, she said the VA sent her a 48-page document. She said it still fails to explain why the disease that killed her husband did not legally disable him.

“’We’re going to get them,’ is what he would have said. He was like me,” O’Rourke said. “He would not give up the fight.”

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel is an investigative reporter at News 4 Tucson.
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