Air Force rules Minn. veteran's cancer caused by base accident - KMSP-TV

Air Force rules Minn. veteran's cancer caused by base accident

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A retired U.S. airman got great news just weeks after the Fox 9 Investigators questioned whether an accident on a military base that exposed him to high amounts of radiation caused his brain tumor.

Nate Morris got the call at work, and he admits he "couldn't believe" the Air Force did a complete about face and changed everything his family had been facing.

"Huge stress relief," Morris said. "Can breathe."

Ever since the 34-year-old learned he had a potentially deadly brain tumor, he's been trying to prove that the bad cells began their relentless march more than a decade ago and were mutated when he was doing routine maintenance on radio antennas at an Air Force base in Utah.

INVESTIGATORS: Radiation and records

Morris has spent years trying to get the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for his treatment and prepare for the possibility that his wife and three children may need someone to take care of them if the cancer comes back -- and it often does.

"If I lose the right to work, what happens to my family?" he asked.

Morris was standing in the path of a large radar system in 2001. Powerful radioactive waves were supposed to be cut off when the dish was pointed in his direction, but the Fox 9 Investigators found evidence they weren't.

Clues began to crop up in the medical records of an airman who worked alongside Morris since his own medical records regarding the incident had mysteriously gone missing -- but both Morris and the other airman remembered that the base changed safety procedures afterward.

The Fox 9 Investigators filed a FOIA request for incident records and safety changes, and Morris says, after years of denying his claims, he was suddenly getting action.

"It stirred the pot," Morris said.

After the call, Morris got a formal letter that read: "We have determined that the following conditions were related to your military service."

The brain tumor was 100% related, and that means the VA will now pay for some past and future medical expenses -- including tests and medicine. More importantly, Morris says it means his family is secure.

"If, for some reason, [the tumor] were to come back and I were to die from it, then my family is taken care of to a certain extent," he said.

Yet, having the military take responsibility means as much as the money could.

"Just them accepting it was the hugest thing," Morris said.

With his dispute now resolved, Morris has only one thing to focus on -- his health.

"I try to put it out of my mind most times, but when the scans come up, I get pretty worried," Morris admitted. "When the kids do certain things, I worry about how long I will be there to see it."

Morris will go back to Mayo Clinic for testing in April, which is where doctors removed his tumor.

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