Friday Aug 08 2008
Iraq War vet battled for health care
By: Susie Iventosch Special to The Press-Tribune
Roseville man loses fight against leukemia
Friends and family were hoping an upcoming benefit dinner would help Roseville soldier Matt Bumpus pay for his costly cancer treatment – and, eventually, beat it. Instead, the event will be a celebration of life for the popular Iraq war veteran, husband and father of two. Bumpus died last Sunday after a two-year battle with leukemia. He was 31. A nearly nine-year Army veteran, Bumpus saw heavy action in Iraq, serving as a staff sergeant, command section sergeant and Stryker vehicle commander in some of the most dangerous war zones. In 2005, the Auburn native was honorably discharged. The first year of civilian life was a good one for Bumpus, who found a good-paying job with Comcast. But in August 2006 – as he and his wife, Lisa, were preparing for the birth of their second son – Bumpus was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. His resulting medical journey and subsequent fight with the Department of Veterans Affairs over insurance coverage brought attention to veterans’ health care through local news reports and a Web site, www.iraqradiation.com. The Web site address refers to his belief that his disease was the result of contact with depleted-uranium, used in some types of ammunition, and exposure to chemical spill sites; the military has long disputed widespread claims about the radioactive danger from depleted uranium, a common component in some munitions. “Matthew, like his fellow soldiers, served his country understanding the risks it involved, but we believe the government should take responsibility for their medical care,” said Laura Bumpus, Matt’s stepmother. “We wouldn’t want to see this turn into another Agent Orange.” At the end of 2006, Bumpus’ leukemia went into remission, but it returned in March, stretching Bumpus’ medical coverage to the limit from chemotherapy treatments well before a life-saving bone marrow match had been found. Bumpus appealed to the Department of Veterans Affairs for medical coverage, but said his case was denied because his disease was discovered more than one year after his discharge from the Army. “Research shows this disease, like other cancers, can take years to manifest,” Bumpus wrote on his Web site. “An irony here is that there is a ‘Gulf War exam’ that is offered to any service member returning from the Middle East. I was not informed of it until after I was diagnosed.” Laura Bumpus wants the military to make certain soldiers returning from service are notified about this comprehensive two-day medical exam so they will have baseline data about any abnormalities that could point to disease. “We would also like to see the government acknowledge that these veterans have been exposed to radiation or chemicals that can later lead to deadly diseases,” she said. Laura Bumpus said the family plans to start a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating soldiers and their families about the Gulf War exam. “We are totally dedicated to getting the word out about this exam,” she said. “If these young men and women take the exam, they’ll at least have baseline information about any chromosomal damage they may have occurred a result of activities conducted while serving in the military, and early detection could prevent them from suffering as Matt did.” His family and friends decided to organize “Operation Matt Bumpus,” a dinner and silent auction fundraiser at the Auburn Valley Country Club on Sept. 12. Although Matthew Bumpus will no longer benefit from this fundraiser, the proceeds will go to help support his family and to pay off his medical bills. Tickets have been sold out, but contributions can still be made c/o Skip Outman at Windermere Real Estate in Auburn, 680 Auburn Folsom Road. For more information, call (530) 888-7441, or reach Laura Bumpus at (530) 320-8802. – Nathan Donato-Weinstein contributed to this report.