Vietnam Vet Who Lost Benefits Has No Congressman to Help his Plight
GRAND CROSSING — When cancer patient and Vietnam War veteran Sonny Cooper's disability check was cut drastically this month, he was told to contact his congressman for help.
Only problem: Cooper, like all residents of the 2nd Congressional District, doesn't have one since former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr,. resigned in November amid health issues and a federal probe into his campaign spending. The election to replace him isn't until April 9.
"I don't know what I am going to do or who to turn to for help," said Cooper, 73, whose monthly check from the Veterans Administration dropped from $2,776 to $146 on Jan. 1. "The VA told me to contact my congressman, but I don't have one."
Cooper, who proudly served his country during the 1960s as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps., saw his check reduced because his prostate cancer went into remission, he said. But in October, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
But that diagnosis apparently didn't come in time to stop his benefits from going down.
"I have to go to the VA this month to be examined by their doctor to determine if I am eligible to receive 100 percent disability again," Cooper said. "But I am told it could be a year before a decision is made. I will probably be homeless by then."
Cooper pays $1,051 a month for the mortgage on his home in the 8100 block of South Dobson Avenue, where he lives with his son, Shannon Bostic, a 31-year old self-employed construction worker. Cooper's monthly expenses average $2,500. The former tax preparer for H&R Block gets $1,011 a month in social security, but he said that's not enough.
Nicole Alberico, a spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs' Chicago office, said she could not discuss Cooper's disability payments or any other matter related to him. But she did confirm that a veteran’s compensation could be reduced if his or her cancer is in remission.
Cooper turned to the Rev. Anthony Williams, a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, for help. The baptist preacher at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in south suburban Robbins said he has set up the "Sonny Cooper Fund" at a U.S. Bank in Dolton to raise monies to help the war veteran. Donations can be sent to the fund, c/o the bank at 1350 E. Sibley Blvd., Dolton, Ill., 60419.
He will also raise money for Cooper at the church at 13939 S. Claire Blvd. this Sunday.
"We will honor Mr. Cooper and take up a collection on his behalf," Williams said. "This is the problem with the black community. Too much taxation and not enough representation. How many more Sonny Coopers are there in the 2nd District who need help but have no congressman to turn to?"
Cooper said he just wants his case to be given a quicker reconsideration.
"I am not asking for much or something I do not deserve," he said. "All I am asking for is to have my disability restored to 100 percent so I can live my remaining years peacefully."